Matthew Milam’s short life story
‘AS A PARENT, YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO’
Edmund D. Fountain, for USA TODAY
(this is an excerpt taken from a USA TODAY article)
When Matthew Milam smiled, dimples on his broad face ran deep, and his cheekbones grew round and high — the infectious look of someone who could light up a room.
“As a little kid, I used to always tell him he had heart,” says his mother, Debbie.
Medication was the key after he grew up. Without it, Matthew toggled emotionally between a sweet, compassionate 24-year-old who loved to cook and was terribly shy around strangers — to someone consumed with paranoia who dug his own grave in the backyard and stood outside in a lightning storm, begging God to strike him down.
“It’d be like a light bulb going off,” says his father, Pat, vice president of sales for an oil field service company in New Orleans.
Those with severe mental illness such as Matthew, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at 24, illustrate the gaping challenges researchers face in finding solutions to suicide. Half of those with schizophrenia, an illness marked by delusions and hearing voices, attempt suicide. One in 10 succeed.
Matthew’s parents said his emotional state began to grow worse after he found his younger brother Michael dead at 18 of a heroin overdose in the family home in Harahan, La., in 2007.
Within a few years, Matthew was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and later with schizophrenia as more severe symptoms emerged.