Family advocates for mental health treatment after son's suicide

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - A Paragould family is determined to help make changes to the state's mental health system after losing a brother and son to suicide last week.

"At 4:22 he left me a voicemail that said I'm not going to live much longer, there's something wrong with me," Shawntae Thompson said. "There was, there was something wrong with him. And it's too late now for my brother but it's not too late for others."

Her younger brother, Brandon Edgar, killed himself last Tuesday night.

Now, his family is working to bring attention to something that is not easy to talk about.

They believe there are faults in the mental health system that left Brandon, also known as BJ, with nowhere to turn.

"He loved to sing and dance," Thompson said. "He was the center of the room when he was in a good mood,"

But the 33-year-old would often sit by himself also.

"He thought a lot," Thompson said.

Brandon battled several medical and mental health issues throughout his life.

"When he was 4, he was hit by a car and had a closed head injury, which caused a lot of problems," said Danielle Edgar, Brandon's mother. "But he overcame a lot of that through therapies and various things."

Brandon battled depression from the time he was 18.

Edgar said doctors discovered he had a brain tumor in 2009, but Brandon kept it a secret from his family.

"We didn't know anything about it until 2015," Edgar said. "Then it was at that point they went in and discovered it was cancerous."

The tumor was removed, but it left Brandon suffering from seizures.

His mental health also continued to decline.

He was arrested several times for things like public intoxication, driving under the influence, and terroristic threatening.

"That's not what he needed though," Edgar said. "Jail didn't do anything to help his mental health state."

Shawntae believes her brother's addiction came from him trying to mask his mental pain, but nobody ever tried to treat the underlying depression that led him to drink.

Edgar said they tried several times to get him long-term treatment.

"They would call the mental health facility, they'd keep him three days, four days at the absolute most, and then turn him loose," Edgar said. "It didn't do any good. He attempted suicide so many times, but it was more of a cry for help, not that he wanted to die I don't think."

His longest stay at a mental health facility was seven days in a Little Rock hospital after shooting himself in the stomach.

Without insurance that would pay or a judge who would court-order the treatment, the family was out of good options.

"My brother had court the day before he took his life," Thompson said. "We had begged [the judge to] put him in a court-order somewhere that will help him. Court-order him to rehab or court-order him to mental health facility but there are not any mental health facilities that will take somebody unless you're going to go and file a 3-5 day petition up to 21 days. They might after 21 days maybe keep them, but my brother had dealt with this for so long that he knew what to say."

Now, the family is hoping to advocate for those who need the same type of help that Brandon never got.

"There are a lot of people out there that have the same problem or have someone in their family who has the same thing and they don't know where to go either," Edgar said.

The family said they don't blame anyone for this problem, but know that something has to change for others in the future.

The Edgars don't blame Brandon's therapist or the hospital staff for this outcome because there aren't laws in place that allow them to do something.

They are now working with therapists and reaching out to lawmakers to try and make some sort of change.

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