This case reminds me of another

Is anyone else seeing shades of Mitrice Richardson in the Ebonee Spears case I posted today? Obviously Mitrice’s disappearance and death is a much more egregious example of neglect, but Ebonee made me think of her.

Out of curiosity I Googled Mitrice, and I discovered her case was in the news as recently as this past November and is still under investigation. Sigh.

Unfortunately, when it comes to mental illness, the laws are such that unless the person agrees to get medical attention, the police and medical professionals usually can’t help. Almost two years ago I had a bad reaction to some medication and started hallucinating and having delusions and babbling nonsense and what have you. Michael took me to the hospital; they shrugged their shoulders and sent me home again. That night I kept trying to walk right through his glass deck door out into the winter cold, wearing only a turtleneck and underpants. Michael called the police and they came and assessed the situation, and they said there was nothing they could do. I wasn’t suicidal, and as long as I was indoors, I didn’t qualify as a danger to myself. They told him to just make sure I didn’t leave the house. Michael had to call his parents to come and stay up all night with me and physically prevent me from leaving. If it weren’t for the three of them, I almost certainly would have wandered off and frozen to death.

The situation totally sucks. How do you toe the line between respecting people’s civil rights, and making sure that they can get help when they really need it?

I really, really hope Ebonee doesn’t turn out to have shared Mitrice’s fate. But I’m not optimistic. It’s been a year.


19 thoughts on “This case reminds me of another

  1. Wrye January 15, 2017 / 9:17 am

    Thank-you for highlighting Ebonee’s case. I am from the Wilmington area and familar with the circumstances. There has sadly been no word on her yet though the family works to keep it in the news. The location that she vanished in is one in transistion- old rundown neighborhoods being rebulit, proximity to the down town/ tourist area and community college- lots of people yet bordered closely by swamps, wetlands and the Cape Fear River. This echos the rough land that Mitrice was found in. I am still hoping that Ebonee has a happier ending.

  2. Lauren Q January 15, 2017 / 9:39 am

    “She had recently been prescribed an anti-depressant, and became confused and paranoid after she started taking it. Spears may be in need of medication.”

    It sounds like medication is the opposite of what she needed. Yet another casualty of the pharmaceutical industry (most likely SSRIs) and the drug companies and doctors will dismiss it and pretend like it never happened so people don’t ask too many questions when they’re being overprescribed these drugs with little information or acknowledgment of their extremely dangerous side effects.

    • Meaghan January 15, 2017 / 11:47 am

      I’m taking four psych drugs at present and I can testify to their lifesaving potential. I do think they are over-prescribed though, and it bothers me that so many people get them from their family doctor rather than a psychiatrist.

      My family doctor suggested I take a certain drug. She mentioned it twice during appointments and even had her staff call me about it. I finally brought it up with my psychiatrist and guess what, that kind of drug is a really bad idea for someone like me. My family doctor didn’t know what she was talking about. She’s not a bad doctor and she’s fine for family practice but mental health is not her specialty and she needs to stay out of it.

      My drug reaction that I mentioned in this entry, incidentally, happened after my (previous) family doctor prescribed a common painkiller that, it turned out, mixed badly with my psych meds. He almost killed me.

      • Lauren Q January 15, 2017 / 1:46 pm

        Sorry to hear about your situation. That is really egregiously terrible. And I doubt he faced any consequences either. Even if you had the time and resources for a malpractice suit, which most people don’t, it’s really hard to prove a case in court because doctors tend to have the benefit of the doubt. My MIL was almost killed by complications of a surgery that weren’t discovered until days later and the malpractice lawyer said the case likely wouldn’t hold up in court because there were too many factors to prove that the complications could have been prevented and weren’t just the normal “hazards of the job.”

        I agree that psychiatric medication is necessary in some cases, but the problem is it should be a last or emergency resort and so many doctors treat it as a first resort. Also I think there is not enough accountability on the part of the doctors. Doctors know that antidepressants can have serious side effects including psychosis, suicidal ideation, and even homicidal ideation. So why is there not more monitoring going on? If you are prescribed medication to my knowledge the doctor or psychiatrist doesn’t do any additional check-ins during the initial adjustment period (besides your normal scheduled therapy appointment), and doesn’t have loved ones monitor and check on you to make sure you don’t have any adverse side effects. They just expect a once weekly or less appointment to be sufficient, and for you to deal with it on your own if something bad happens.

        In fact in most cases if you even bring up psychosis as a potential side effect of antidepressants, doctors tend to laugh at you and tell you to “stop worrying so much.” And that’s if the patient even researches the side effects on their own, which most don’t because they trust that the doctor knows what they’re talking about.

        Personally I think when someone is prescribed drugs with a possible side effect of psychosis, they should have to sign a “living will” of sorts that states that they agree to be sectioned if they start displaying psychotic behaviors, as well as having daily phone check-ins from the prescribing doctor and daily check-ins by a loved one as well.

        Unfortunately the medical system is set up to incentivize both drug companies and doctors to push drugs onto often unsuspecting, uninformed patients.

      • Meaghan January 15, 2017 / 2:56 pm

        I wouldn’t call what Dr. Easley did “malpractice.” I simply viewed it as a mistake and I didn’t blame him for it. Every doctor, even really good ones, makes mistakes from time to time. This drug interaction I had was quite uncommon. It lasted three days altogether. I only remember about 5% of the first day; snapshots basically. I was behaving normally on the second day but I forgot a lot of it and then had a long false memory/hallucination. On the third day there’s an entire twelve-hour gap in my memory and I still have NO IDEA where I was or what I was doing during that time. It was a little after 8:00 a.m., then suddenly it was after 8:00 p.m., closer to nine, and I was in my car parked at a gas station a few blocks away and had no idea how I got there.

        It took a long time for me to figure out what had happened. First I saw my psychiatrist, since I thought it was a psychotic episode, but he said it was delirium rather than psychosis — I had been stumbling around like a drunk, unable to type or tie my shoes. So then I saw Dr. Easley, who scheduled me for an EKG which turned out to be normal. (I’d gotten an MRI at the hospital when Michael took me there that first night; it was normal too.) Then I saw a neurologist, who looked at everything and had no idea what was going on. She said she’d never seen anything like it.

        It looked like it was going to remain a mystery forever, but as a last-ditch effort I thought I’d have a look at my records myself. I went to the hospital and asked for the records for the ER visit, and when I looked at them, I saw what they were clearly incomplete: I was a mentally ill person presenting with symptoms of mental illness, yet there was no psych eval. I went back to the hospital and asked about the psych eval, and it seems you had to fill out a separate form for that. No one had said so. I filled out the form and got the psych eval, and there it was: I mentioned to the evaluator that I had had a terrible headache that morning and had taken that painkiller Dr. Easley prescribed. I then called my pharmacy and asked if the painkiller had any interactions with the four drugs I was taking. It turned out that with the two anti-depressants I was on at the time, that painkiller could potentially interact and cause every symptom I experienced.

        And I thought: Bingo. This was after, like, four months, and many expensive tests and seeing three different doctors and having to travel overnight to see the neurologist. Much ado about nothing. At least I don’t have to worry about anything like this happening again, provided I stay away from that drug.

        By this point Dr. Easley had closed his practice and taken up a second career, teaching at a local medical school. I called him at his office at the university and told him about the drug interaction causing it all. This was not to yell at him or anything, just because I knew he was puzzled and deeply troubled by what had happened and would like to know the answer, and because I thought he might share it with his students.

        I have a short video Michael took of me on that first night, the night when I was babbling nonsense and trying to walk out through his deck door out into the snow wearing almost nothing. Earlier that day, he had had to stop me from taking apart his kitchen chairs. It’s a pretty interesting video, I think. It’s obvious I understand the questions he’s asking, and I’m trying to answer them as best I can, talking calmly in mostly grammatical sentences, but none of it makes much sense. The day was Sunday, the first, not Thursday the 17th. I had not recently taken cough syrup. Randi was a girl who bullied me in middle school.

      • Meaghan January 15, 2017 / 3:01 pm

        Oh and I might add, Lauren, I agree with you that psychiatric medication side effects should be much more closely monitored than they are. It bothers me when very depressed or otherwise mentally unwell people are simply handed a prescription for 30 or even 60 days worth of drugs and sent out the door. When I got into treatment for my bipolar disorder (initially misdiagnosed as simple depression), I was hospitalized because I was suicidal. My psychiatrist tries to monitor things as closely as he can when I start a new medication: I get a week or two weeks’ worth, then I have to come see him again for more. The clinic’s nurse, however, is not so great: she almost NEVER calls me back and it really bothers me. Back in August or September I was prescribed a new medication that, at first, had me sleeping 18 hours a day and walking around as if I was drunk. I called the clinic and left a message with the nurse’s voice mail, asking if this was normal (it was) and if it would disappear soon (it did) and she NEVER CALLED BACK. That’s just inconsiderate, callous even. But she’s the only nurse they have; I’m stuck with her.

      • Julie January 15, 2017 / 5:05 pm

        It should be against the law for primary care doctors and physician’s assistants to prescribe anti-depressant drugs. They do not understand what they are prescribing
        (nor do they care to learn) and they seem to think they are harmless (which they are not) I have learned to say no to any primary care doctors and physician’s assistants that has tried to prescribe those drugs.

      • Meaghan January 15, 2017 / 5:45 pm

        The problem, Julie, is that there’s such a shortage of psychiatrists in this country, particularly in rural areas — and the problem is getting worse, the specialty is not popular among med students and psychiatrists are retiring at rates faster than are being replaced by new ones — that many people don’t have access to them and if they can’t get their mental health treatment from primary care doctors, they’re not going to get treated at all.

      • Medea January 15, 2017 / 6:04 pm

        It can sometime take many try before finding the right medication, its not uncommon. And I totally agree with Meaghan, it is life saving for a lot of people. Making broad iudgements dont help. We dont know much about her case to make medical critics…

    • Julie January 15, 2017 / 4:49 pm

      These days SSRI are considered a “cure all” and a doctors or even a Physician’s Assistant will hand them out like they candy and like they are harmless which is NOT the case. They have serious side effect and if you are taking them you should be monitored closely. Unfortunately I had a similar situation about 10 years ago to Ebonee”s I was having very, very bad insomnia issues and had been going to this doctor (who I now have realized he shouldn’t have had a medical license) and he prescribed Zoloft for INSOMNIA (Zoloft is not a drug for insomnia I found out later). I had a bad reaction to Zoloft (feeling disoriented, depersonalization, like I was having an out of body experience), I went to the emergency room at 8am on a Saturday morning and they were very irritated that I was wasting their time. After I laid in the emergency room for 8 hours, they told me I need to go to the private mental hospital and released me to my brother. My brother drove me to the private mental hospital and even though I had The emergency room had no time to deal with me. After two more hours of sitting in the emergency room lobby with no help I told my brother there was no use, it was time to leave. He stayed with me that night. After months of suffering I finally found the right doctor and the correct medicine (definitely not an SSRI) to help with my insomnia issues. But what if my brother had not been there to help me that night. I might have ended up like Ebonee. Unfortunately, the thing is even if you have INSURANCE (and at that time I had a very good insurance plan) and you ask for help from the CORRECT people (I went to the private MENTAL HOSPTIAL), odds are you won’t get any help at all. They will all turn you away.

      • Julie January 15, 2017 / 4:56 pm

        Sorry it looks like part of my post got cut off. My brother drove me to the Private Mental Hospital. At that time I had really good insurance (Blue Cross Blue Shield) and the plan clearly stated they would pay for a 30 day psychiatric hospital stay. The intake coordinator at the mental hospital refused do anything to help me. First she said I didn’t have the right insurance (which I new was not true). Then she said they had no “means to test my blood for what drugs I had been taking. So she called an ambulance and had me transported back to the emergency room (even though they had told me earlier in the day they couldn’t help me. By this time it was 8pm and the emergency room was full, After two more hours of sitting in the emergency room lobby with no help I told my brother there was no use, it was time to leave. He stayed with me that night. After months of suffering I finally found the right doctor and the correct medicine (definitely not an SSRI) to help with my insomnia issues. But what if my brother had not been there to help me that night. I might have ended up like Ebonee. Unfortunately, the thing is even if you have INSURANCE (and at that time I had a very good insurance plan) and you ask for help from the CORRECT people (I went to the private MENTAL HOSPTIAL), odds are you won’t get any help at all. They will all turn you away.

      • Meaghan January 15, 2017 / 4:58 pm

        Well, for what it’s worth, Ebonee actually did have depression (which may have been caused directly by her lupus, or maybe indirectly just from having been diagnosed with a rather awful incurable disease) and was prescribed the anti-depressant for that reason.

        I’m fortunate in that my anti-depressants haven’t given me much grief in the way of side effects, but anti-depressants aren’t the only psych drugs I have to take. I’m on some pretty heavy-duty stuff — as is befitting for a person suffering from bipolar disorder with severe depressive episodes and occasional psychotic features, as well as a few other mental conditions on the side.

  3. Jaclyn January 16, 2017 / 12:54 am

    I am currently tapering off of a SSRI I have taken for 20 years. Fortunately, I am not working at this time (interviewing for several prospects, however). If I had to work I absolutely could not taper off of this. I did my research about tapering off, with Psychiatrists help. I have many things I do that lessen the withdrawal side effects, but I cannot imagine not having resources and help through this. I put myself in an outpatient facility for a 2 week stint about 7 years ago for anxiety and depression, which I had the insurance for. Yet there are so many unfortunate situations where people do not have any support from others and/or have crummy insurance. I have a very understanding husband, but have limited my contact with others during this time. I am getting better each day. My husband works at a homeless day center where many of those coming to receive help have mental disabilities. Being homeless and trying to work through mental challenges is very sad indeed. Many of them miss their medication dosage or have trouble getting to appointments. Most do not want pity or sympathy, they just want consistent mental care.

    • Meaghan January 16, 2017 / 10:38 pm

      I am so sorry to hear of your troubles and wish you good luck. My psychiatrist recently prescribed a new antidepressant for me. It’s working and I’ve had no side effects from it. But many of the drugs I’ve taken over the years have eventually stopped working and had to be discontinued, and I’ve heard this particular drug is MURDER if you stop taking it. I hope I never have to.

      • jaclyn January 17, 2017 / 8:50 pm

        Thank you.

  4. Jessica Pfeiffer January 18, 2017 / 5:58 am

    SMH! I don’t believe that this poor woman was prescribed an anti-depressant. Not ON TOP of all the very serious medications prescribed to manage Lupus. I personally have an autoimmune disorder, Rheumatoid Arthritis. RA & Lupus often mimic one another and are difficult to diagnose. Regardless, the treatment/medications are the same – Prednisone/Corticosteroids & antimalarials are just TWO of the medication cocktail used to manage Lupus/RA… the side effects for both types of these particular meds include, but are not limited to ‘mood or other mental changes’. Hell-o??? Ebonee was likely seeing multiple doctors – a general practitioner, a rheumatologist, a pain management doc, & likely a gastro doc as well. In this particular situation, I strongly disagree with Julie, (sorry). Being that Ebonee’s team of doctors were familiar with the medications used to manage her medical condition, I would have discouraged her from seeking any treatment from a psychiatrist, other than talk therapy perhaps.
    It seems as though her family didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of her condition, or the potential side effects that often accompany the medications used to treat her illness. Most autoimmune disorders are ‘invisible illnesses’, – we don’t look sick, so the lack of empathy, support, & understanding from family/friends can be profound, not to mention isolating. So isolating in fact, that I’ve sought out support groups in my area for ppl w/chronic pain. It’s difficult to understand or express CONSTANT pain to friends/family/etc.- after a while you start to feel like a whiner, a complainer, a burden, It’s tough – and unless you have a really good doctor who advises you as to what to watch out for/ be aware of, with the medication – how is one to know? No one warned me about Prednisone. Had I been warned about the potential for RAGE & ERRATIC BEHAVIOR, (ROID RAGE), I would never have started it over x-mas break, with six kids under foot, during a major snow storm that took days to dig out from. I was hospitalized THREE times after taking Prednisone, all three times I was escorted by the police. I was literally out of my mind… I don’t recall much, all but a few racing thoughts, such as ‘I’ve got my Sketchers on, I can out run these suckers, (the police)’… It took a few days of being in the hospital before I returned to my normal, polite, demure self. When I questioned why everyone else had items in their room that mine was lacking, like curtains, canvas wall art, a desk chair – I was appalled to hear that upon my arrival I began to rage & threw all those items out the door, along w’my mattress & bedding. I have absolutely no recollection of this what-so-ever. I’m sorry, Ebonee… wherever you are… I’m sorry that no one took the time, or had the knowledge to understand what you were feeling in those moments. I will forever follow up on Ebonee’s story, as I feel a strange sort of sisterhood towards her. I hope wherever she is, her pain is minimal & she has found some peace within. Blessed be ~ Jessica

    • diamondlil16 January 19, 2017 / 2:58 am

      Oh wow, I had no knowledge that corticosteroids could also cause “roid rage” as I thought that only had to do with anabolic steroids like the kind athletes use/abuse.

      So sorry you had such a terrible reaction to that.

    • Meaghan January 19, 2017 / 3:25 pm

      Yes, she was prescribed an anti-depressant. This was made quite clear.

  5. Deanne Grace (@Deanne_Grace_) February 21, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    I have researched this case extensively, including the symptoms, effects, and treatments for Ebonee’s type of lupus. Her manic behavior and anti-depressant prescription are both commonplace per her diagnosis. Her family tried to have her committed the night before.
    Ebonee was allowed keys to a car once she started displaying this type of behavior is ludicrous and negligent; HOWEVER,




    WECT’s Marissa Hundley interviewed her boyfriend. The video clip of his demeanor was VERY TELLING, but, unfortunately, has been removed.

    The fact that it took a full year for Star News Online’s F.T. Norton to report that Ebonee went to the Boys & Girls Club before the WPD is HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS.

    Not to mention, Star News Online’s Elizabeth Montgomery’s video, that supposedly retraces Ebonee’s whereabouts between 8:15pm – 10:45pm, even though Ebonee left the WPD at 8:15pm alone and wasn’t seen again until outside of her apt. by a neighbor AT 10:45pm.

    Anyone interested in helping us find more answers to this mess of an investigation,
    please begin directly campaigning for accurate reporting by contacting the above sources.

    Anyone interested in joining the discussion about the case, please feel free to join the open forums listed below.

    Thank you!

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