By Dennis J. Freeman
Hawthorne resident Raymond Mikhael knows first-hand how mental health can affect a family. He’s been through it. Mikhael’s mother suffers from schizophrenia. His mother’s illness had become bad enough that Mikhael brought her into his home to stay. He eventually had to call local authorities to take her away. His mother spent time in a mental institution.
So when Los Angeles Lakers star Ron Artist came out publicly that he was selling his championship ring to benefit the cause of supporting people afflicted with mental health, Mikhael decided to put his bid in. After purchasing 100 tickets, Mikhael was announced as the winner of the raffle drawing, giving him and his family a Christmas Day to celebrate.
“For me, it was an investment throughout my life, financially and emotionally,” Mikhael said. “The situation was abnormal. But I knew I had to take care of the one person who brought me into this world. You can’t forget. You can’t send them into a home. It was challenging. It’s so ironic that Ron done this and I am the person to win this ring. I contributed and here we are today. Maybe this has a meaning for me and my cause.”
Married with four children, the 39-year-old Mikhael said the most difficult challenge for him was to call the police to have his mother removed from his home as her mental state became too out of control for the family to handle.
“It can have a very negative effect on your surroundings and environment…on your wife, your children, your work and even myself,” Mikhael said. “It was very negative. There are certain things that I can’t talk about in detail that actually happened, [but] you have to be supportive and loving and push it aside and do what you have to do. The hardest thing in my life was calling the authorities and having my mother taken away in my living room-the house that my mother and my dad built. She got taken away in handcuffs.”
Even more difficult for Mikhael was going and leaving the mental institution his mother stayed in for a year and a half.
“Going to visit her and leaving, seeing her beautiful face behind that glass when I am walking out…it was disheartening,” said Mikhael. “When she came out she was much better.”
Artest and actor George Lopez presented the winner and his family on stage at the Conga Room shortly after the Lakers’ Christmas Day matchup with the Miami Heat. Garnering national attention by discussing the plight of those with mental health, Artest was able to raise $651,000 through the public raffle.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are approximately 2.4 million adults in the U.S. suffering from schizophrenia. Mikhael said what Artest has done to bring awareness to mental health is nothing short of amazing. But he believes there is still a lot of work to be done to educate folks about the issue, particularly in urban communities.
“I don’t think enough has been done,” Mikhael said. “It starts with the children. You have to start with the children. What a lot of people don’t understand is when you talk about that murderer, this rapist this thief…I’m not condoning that. If you choose to be a criminal or choose to hurt another individual, you don’t get away with that.
“At the same token…If an individual has been molested, has been abused, is mentally incapable of taking care of himself, and you throw them out of society, what do you think they’re going to do? They’re going to grow up as an adult and they’ll become a menace to society. You cannot allow that to happen. So what Ron is doing is a wonderful thing.”