Shawn Ley: What can you do if a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis?

Mother, 2 children froze to death in field in Pontiac

PONTIAC, Mich. – The facts of what happened in Pontiac with Monica Cannady and her two sons, 9-year-old Kyle Milton and 3-year-old Malik Milton are still extremely difficult to hear, read and process.

The mother and her boys froze to death in a field in Pontiac.

Many of us at Local 4 have families, we are fathers and we are mothers.

I have not covered this tragedy until now. I have only listened to it as my colleagues have gathered the facts, as they have worked hard to present those disturbing details in sensitive ways and ask questions about what happened -- who had contact with Cannady and what was the true timeline of events?

Timeline: Breakdown of Pontiac woman’s activity, contact with deputies before she, 2 sons froze to death

We are saddened, shocked, horrified that in 2023, a mother and her sons are gone in the most awful way.

The mother was in a mental health crisis.

We want to dig as deep as we can to answer this one question: If you have someone you love in crisis, what can you do?

Right now, again, in 2023, the answer we are getting is: Call 911.

Is that good enough? What will happen?

Another answer: Take your loved one to the ER.

What if they refuse to go?

Should you get the court system involved?

I reached out to former Wayne County Judge Vonda Evans.

The former judge is extremely passionate about this awful case.

Below is our interview, and you will see there are no easy answers:

What about probate court? What about getting our court system involved to help save someone?

Well, that depends. Have you built a record with your loved one on mental health challenges? Will the official deem your loved one a danger to themselves or others? Evans says in her time on the bench, she saw where efforts in probate court have failed.

Evans says this case has to be the final wake up call to Lansing and Washington.

She wants to see mental health crisis centers in our neighborhoods where there are none right now. She wants more education, she wants us in the media to continue to shine the light on this crisis.

It takes funding. Lots of funding.

But when?

911 is often the only option for family members

I also immediately thought of clinical psychologist Dr. Rose Moten.

Moten has been the point person during mental health crisis incidents in her own family and she speaks candidly about what she did and what is most times the only option for family members. Moten called 911.

You can watch our interview with Moten below:

What about court? What about existing laws on the books?

Moten says have you build a record with your loved one? Doctor visits, medications prescribed, hospitalizations?

You don’t need a lawyer, but you need to be armed with information, and the reality is most families do not have a file on their own loved one.

Moten says a long term answer for all of us is if there is any history of mental illness in our families, get our children into counseling now as a preventative measure.

I asked Moten if I handed her a magic wand, what would mental health services look like?

She had a short answer: funding.

She says funding for mental health care was cut 20 years ago and we are seeing our second generation of loved ones in crisis with no where to go, their family members often times at a loss. She says this crisis is at a boiling point.

Today, there is no extra funding. There are not neighborhood crisis centers. Police are overwhelmed, we have seen incidents result in more tragedies.

Right now there is 911. There is the ER. Maybe there is probate court and there are a lot of us still looking for just the right answer.

And there is this question hovering over it all: How could that happen to a mother and her sons?

About the Author:

Local 4 Defender Shawn Ley is an Emmy award-winning journalist who has been with Local 4 News for more than a decade.