I come across many stories of how families are affected by mental illness, but one story I read over a year ago has never left my mind. I want to share that story with you today.
This story is about Jeremy Lum (taken from the Justice for Jeremy website):
Jeremy Lum was arrested on July 8, 2009, by Lathrop Police officers for public intoxication. In reality, he was suffering from a bipolar episode, complete with hallucinations. He’d left his home that evening—without his wallet or ID, without his cell phone, even without shoes. He took only his dog with him. He ended up at the door of a residence less than a half mile away, mistakenly believing he was at the home of his aunt—only two blocks further. Because of the late hour (11pm) and Jeremy’s insistence that he was at the right house, the startled residents called 911. By the time the Lathrop Police responded, Jeremy had already crossed the street and was standing on the sidewalk with his dog.
Through eyewitness and even the arresting officers’ own accounts, Jeremy remained cooperative with the 3 officers the entire time; only to stand up every 30 seconds or so because he thought he was being followed—suffering hallucinations. The officers claim they smelled alcohol on his breath and placed him under arrest. The residents who called 911 say they did not smell alcohol, only that he seemed confused and lost. A bartender, who was walking home after work, stopped to ask Jeremy if he needed help. Both the reporting party (residents) and the bartender report they smelled no alcohol and he didn’t appear to be drunk. They did note his odd behavior. Jeremy was able to give the officers his home address. They walked his dog home and he was taken to the San Joaquin County Jail in French Camp, CA, nearly 7 miles away. He was taken into jail barefoot.
It is on record that while being booked, Jeremy was “coherent enough” to inform the booking officer he was Bipolar and on medication for it. There is also information that while in custody he tested negative for alcohol, was held in an isolation cell due to his mental status, had been vomiting, and even suffered a seizure. The response from jail personnel was that “he was faking it” and nothing was done to help him. He never received medical or mental evaluation or treatment while in jail. Jeremy was released 7 hours later at 7:30 a.m., without any contact made to his family or friends. That was the last time he was ever seen alive. Three days later, jet skiers found his body floating in the river that runs behind the jail.
As you can imagine this loss brought unimaginable devastation to his family and friends who knew Jeremy as a bright young man with a future after graduating from UC Berkeley and pursuing a dream of becoming a traveling nurse so he could help others while seeing the world.
Now Jeremy’s loved ones are coming together with the Justice for Jeremy Project with hopes to make a difference so that no family has to suffer like they have. It’s also their mission to be a reminder that those suffering from mental illness are in fact suffering from an illness and should be treated as such.
They have created the annual memorial walk where the community comes together to finish the walk that Jeremy couldn’t, many doing the 6.5 mile walk from the police station to his home barefoot to honor Jeremy.
In addition, they’re hosting the third annual Justice for Jeremy Mental Health Awareness festival this Saturday, Sept. 8th from 12pm–6pm at Manuel Valverde Park, 5th St. Lathrop, CA 95330. If you want to support this important event visit their facebook page at:
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Article about Justice for Jeremy Mental Health Awareness Festival:
Interview with Jeremy’s Aunt Connie: