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“MasterChef” runner-up commits suicide, family blames mental health system

October 14, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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I came across a story this morning on CNN that I wanted to bring to your attention, so the field can look at this and either stand up to the accusations, or do something to change what may be wrong in the field. A year after losing the FOX reality television cooking competition “MasterChef,” 26-year-old Josh Marks was diagnosed with biopolar disorder.

CNN reports that in July, he called police after shooting himself and when police arrived, he lunged towards them and tried to disarm an officer. He was treated in the hospital for his injuries and then moved into the local jail, where he was placed with the general population and received no mental health treatment and no medications.

His mother bailed him out of jail about a week later and says she tried to get him into long-term inpatient care treatment in Illinois but could not find one with an available bed. After feeling desperate to get help for her son, she enrolled him in an outpatient program and that concluded last Thursday. Apparently, the clinician there had diagnosed Marks with schizophrenia and he did not take the news of the diagnosis lightly.

Because he was so distraught, the mother stayed home with him all day but left for a few hours to retrieve her daughter from school on Friday afternoon. While the mother was stuck in traffic, she received a call from her brother saying that a neighbor reported Marks walking around an alley with a gun.

After rushing back towards her neighborhood and frantically looking in the alleys, she found her son. He was dead.

The mother blames her son’s death on the lack of mental health treatment facilities and to the ease of accessibility to guns. She said her son had little money, as he had been unemployed and was in treatment full-time, so he must’ve been able to buy the gun for cheap on the streets.

This is indeed another tragic story of someone who had great career potential and a great heart, but wasn’t treated effectively. However, who’s to blame is still up for debate. I’d love to hear thoughts from you in the field: treatment providers, clinicians. I’ve blogged before about the gun registry adding in the mental health notes and the field is constantly talking about the need to improve access to care. Please email me at sbrys@vendomegrp.com, tweet me @ap_bh_sbrys or leave a comment on this page after logging in. I’d love to hear from you.

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Comments

First, what an awful and sad story of a life lost.

The fact that Marks had a self-inflicted gunshot wound in July alone would seem to indicate that he met the most critical risk criterion for suicide - the willingness to use deadly force.

I hope his family has the courage to keep speaking out and explaining the details of this case. It is terribly unfortunate, but not a surprise, that inpatient beds are in very short supply. My question as to any responsibility was whether an insurer refused to offer inpatient care, or that it was offered and a bed was unavailable.

If it is true that outpatient treatment was the best that an insurer would offer, then there appears something very very wrong with that. To require a suicidal man to "fail first" in outpatient treatment is appalling.

Shannon Brys