NORFOLK-- Bobi Mace remembers the relief she felt when her son got arrested after three previous incidents because it meant she would finally be able to get him the help that he needed.
At 13, Mace's son was diagnosed with epilepsy. As he neared his 20's he became bipolar and manic depressive.
She cries when she remembers the day she committed him to a mental health hospital, just after he turned 24.
"He thought we didn't want him," she says through her tears.
She said she felt guilty but it's what her family needed. He received treatment at a group home facility for years and his youngest siblings didn't want him to leave but in the end they felt it was the right thing to do.
Mace says that she never thought he would hurt her but definitely hurt himself many times.
He would break into the neighbor's window and cut himself with the glass. Another time he grabbed people and tried to impose his religious beliefs onto them.
"A kid who is stubborn will eventually come your way. One who is imbalanced can fly off the handle at any given moment," Mace said.
Robert McCartney, the executive director of the Barry Robinson Center, says that no one knows the child better than the parent. The center focuses on rehabilitating troubled children.
Just as you keep phone numbers for poison control, McCartney says you should have the number to a local mental health facility that can help you in the moment of a crisis.
"The last thing you want to be doing in a crisis is trying to figure out what to do, so parents need to be armed with those numbers and having them ready is preventative," McCartney said.
He says that if the parent feels like something just isn't right, that is validation enough to do something about it.
McCartney says he sees signs of sickness in children earlier than before.
McCartney adds that although the gun control debate has heightened after the Connecticut shootings, he believes the conversation needs to stay on mental illness.
Here are the steps a parent should take in case they are concerned about their child's mental health status:
1) call the pediatrician
2) ask for referral to a mental health professional
3) call the community services board
For guidance you can also call the Barry Robinson Center at (757) 455- 6100.