Finding Phillip: A mother's fight to save her son

9:31 AM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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Phillip Haynes, Roswell, GA, December 21, 2012

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- It was just three days after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown Connecticut that we first met Phillip Haynes.

Twenty-five years old, Phillip had disappeared months earlier.

His mother Denise Haynes followed up on a tip from one of Phillip's friends that he was living on the streets.

RELATED | One mother's battle with her son's mental illness

Denise found Phillip, sitting on a dirty sleeping bag on a sidewalk behind an abandoned office building.

That day Denise asked Phillip, "Do you want to be helped?"

"Similar to the stray house cat, I'd like to be helped," Phillip answered.

His speech that day was confusing.

"It depends if I'd have black level complacency," he said, speaking out his conditions for getting help.

When we ask Phillip what he means, he answers, "I don't know. Solitude has driven me mad, similar to the deranged hermit."

RELATED | Signs of mental illness and how to get help

Denise left her son on the sidewalk that day, devastated, but not surprised he wouldn't come with her.

A few days later, we learned she had gotten him into a local long term stay hotel.

Denise helps Phillip get in contact with an ACT team, based out of Grady Hospital. ACT stands for Assertive Community Treatment. Teams of health professional go onto the streets and take care of mentally ill people wherever they may be. They provide counseling and medication and work toward the goal of stabilizing the individual's life.

Members of the ACT team began visiting Phillip every few days.

"Is it that you think stress is contributing to your mental difficulties?" The question for Phillip comes from Kyle, a Morehouse School of Medicine student who is accompanying one of Phillip's therapists, David.

Phillip has been diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, which is recurrent mood disorder with psychosis. He has tried medication but says he had terrible side effects.

"The last time I got on medicine, I had a negative effect," he said. "I might not have had that affect if I'd read the pamphlet. Maybe I would. These are things I don't know."

For Phillip's mother, the ACT team is a godsend.

"I'm sighing a breath of relief just knowing that I have people helping right now," she said.

Phillip says the ACT team is working to find him permanent housing and he hopes to try another medication soon.

"I'm trying to better myself to see if I can't eradicate my disorder from existence," he said.

He says he wants to go back to work. "I'll be in an apartment I hope, maybe preparing for work and hopefully receiving financial aid."

Denise says Phillip is beginning to understand his illness. "He said something to me yesterday, he said 'Do you think I'll ever get better?'"

Denise says she told Phillip he will get better. But she cannot control his illness. And the reality of that has forced her to alter her own dreams for her son.

"I've learned now to accept who he is for who he is, and I'm good with that," she said.

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