Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mental Illness and GPD

'Families feel more alone':
Advocate: Families wary of involving GPD
By Bryan C. Sualog
Pacific Daily News
October 15, 2008

The fatal shooting Friday of Darson Rekemesik has raised concerns among families with members who have mental illnesses.

Guma' Mami Executive Director Bernie Grajek said a parent came up to her and told her what happened with Darson Rekemesik was the family's greatest fear -- that their loved ones with mental illness could be hurt or killed.

"With this incident, it just scares her even more and it makes families feel even more alone," Grajek said.

Darson Rekemesik was fatally shot in his Dededo home by Guam Police Department officers Friday after police said he rushed at them armed with a machete and a knife.

Darson Rekemesik suffered from mental illness and was in need of medication, according to his mother, Marcella Rekemesik. She said she told police her son was mentally ill and wanted their help in getting him to take his medication.

Grajek hoped the shooting wouldn't stir up fear of those who have a mental illness.

"This individual had a life and he was employed and I feel very strongly that this individual was a productive person of this community," Grajek said. "He had a slight lapse in his mental health and I want to assure the community that mental illness is a very treatable illness."

Pastor Smehl K. Gallen, of the northern Guam Seventh-day Adventist Church, said he baptized Darson Rekemesik a few years ago.

"To many people, Darson was special. To me, he was more special," Gallen said. "I baptized him into the faith. I helped bring him to Christ."

Gallen said Darson Rekemesik was especially loved by every member of the congregation. He added that the church's members were stunned when his death was announced at a service over the weekend.

Gallen said Darson Rekemesik was the type of person who couldn't harm anyone.

"He was such a nice person," Gallen said. "He was very loving and got along with people very well."

Grajek said she hopes the shooting would have first-responder agencies re-evaluate protocols and training when dealing with a person who is mentally ill.

"It's time for the folks at the different agencies, including the Guam Police Department, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and (the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities) to look at how they're going to respond to this so that it doesn't happen again," she said.

The police have launched an internal affairs investigation into the matter. No information on the progress of the investigation has been released.

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