“He walked in front of the truck on purpose,” says Chris Spaeth, Casey Spaeth’s father.
On April 19 around 11:30 a.m., 23-year-old Casey Spaeth of Spirit Lake committed suicide by jumping in front of a truck near his family home. Now, his father Chris has to live the rest of his life without his son Casey.
“He was a role model student and we had no issues. Top of his class, never in trouble. Probably the best kid you could ever ask for and there were no signs of any trouble ever in his life…It just snapped one day. He tried to cure his problems by testing out and using drugs–mind altering drugs to try to calm his mind because he couldn’t calm his mind,” says Spaeth.
Diagnosed with Schizophrenia and Bipolarism a year ago, Casey fought a mental battle he would never overcome.
“He started taking his medications regularly but he didn’t like his medication because they numbed him and took his feelings away,” says Spaeth.
Casey ended up dropping out of college; the drugs he took to relieve the symptoms of his illnesses wouldn’t allow him to concentrate or pass his classes.
After moving back home, Casey got a job working nights at Hy-Vee. He had good days… and bad.
“At work at Hy-Vee, during his last week, they knew there were issues he was having but they didn’t know who to talk to,” says Spaeth.
A shortage of doctors and counselors in the area left Casey feeling numb, alone and isolated in his thoughts.
“Our mental health system here is really broken. We’ve made a lot of laws and the communication system and the doctors and the families and the people that really care for the people isn’t happening so there’s not enough doctors here. To have to see a doctor via video from Florida from here in Iowa is just a horrible thing. It’s almost impossible to diagnose and treat somebody via video because there’s not enough doctors,” Spaeth adds.
The stigma of mental illness our society has been swept under the rug for so long leaving people like Casey feeling trapped.
“There’s so many people that want to feel that people care for them and yet we just shove them to a hospital and from there we take them to another hospital and then they go to the police department and it’s almost like a circle they keep going in and they never really get treated on what the problems are. I believe even today that Casey could still be alive if we really talked about his illness and what he had,” Spaeth says.
Chris unlocked this final good bye note on Casey’s phone shortly after he died:
“For over the past year I have been court ordered to get a shot of “medicine.” What this shot does is block the brain from producing dopamine. As most people know, dopamine is what gives someone pleasure. So this drug essentially blocks you from enjoying life and living in the moment. I’ve been living with little to no pleasure. I don’t enjoy anything and can’t put my heart into anything I do. I feel as if my soul has been ripped in to pieces and it’s destroyed my will to live.”
A life without Casey has compelled Spaeth to keep fighting and advocating to combat the stigma that’s so negatively associated with mental health issues, but he also feels torn that it has to come to death for action to be taken seriously.
“Everybody is crying for more information on how to deal with mental illness. There’s a lot of people that have it that won’t talk about it– the stigma of it is really a big thing and everybody is afraid to talk about it,” says Spaeth.
Although what Casey dealt with was genetically predisposed…
“I’ve had my wife and son across from the hospital from each other in Sioux City at the same time with the same diagnosis. Coming to reality of what this disease is and how powerful it is and what it takes to cure and help people through it is a big deal and we are no where near touching the surface of it,” Spaeth says.
Chris knows there is something we can all do to help…
“If we could do anything it would be to get more support for the mental health groups in the United States. I think we would just be miles ahead and further than where we are at today,” Spaeth says.