A mother’s fight: Supporting people with mental illnesses

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — David Latham and Gus Deeds are familiar names in the Hampton Roads area. One mother in Norfolk is on a mission to make sure her son doesn’t become one of those names.

Sherita Martin says it’s not easy to care for somebody with a mental illness. She lives in a constant fear that her son will become the next mentally ill person involved in a fatal incident. So she’s speaking out, hoping to help other families in the same situation.

With tears in her eyes, Sherita Martin watches a video of her son having a breakdown.

“He’s kicked down my front door, my back door, my bedroom door,” she said. “I’ve locked my door at night because I felt scared of my own son, who I love so much.”

Lately, Martin has been recording these moments: Observing his reactions to different medications and trying to understand what’s affecting him.

“It’s been a long road, you know. It’s been some ups and downs, you know what I mean. It’s just been, it’s been really hard,” said Tony Martin, who is 28 and has Asperger’s and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Tony lives on his own, but spends a lot of time at his mom’s house, which is right down the street. He has a bachelor’s degree in horticultural science and technology from Christopher Newport University.

“I like plant breeding and genetics,” Tony said.

His mom has taken family leave from work since November.

“I felt like it was Tony and I against the world. And if I didn’t fight, he wouldn’t get the help he needed, and I was afraid of losing my son,” Sherita said.

She says the constant cycle of seeing new doctors and trying new medications demands her full attention and has left her searching for more.

“I believe that they really need to do a better job for treatment of people with mental illness,” said Sherita.

Her frustration has turned into action and now, she’s working with other families who are also caring for someone with a mental illness. She said, “I would like to make it easier for other families to be able to come and get this information.”

Tony says all he wants is to feel is normal. And in his mom’s backyard, that’s where he feels at home.

“I like to plant things from a seed. You know from a tiny seed, because I got a lot of patience,” said Tony.

Sherita says the Norfolk Community Services Board has been helping them, especially in the last year.

Her nonprofit for families with someone with mental illness is called Achievable Dreams of Hampton Roads. Sherita is looking for people who have someone with a mental illness in their family to contribute to a book. To contact her, you can email ADofHR@gmail.com.