Wife describes her husband’s struggles with mental health behind bars

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A frustrated woman shared her story with News 2 in hopes of raising awareness of the challenges she faces in getting her husband — currently being held at the Sumner County Jail — the mental health care he allegedly need.

This story provides a glimpse of the challenge facing the justice system across the county, with health experts saying it is often a vicious cycle of long waiting lists, self-medication and recidivism.

Cecelia Bottoms didn’t mince words when she spoke about her 38-year-old husband, Joshua Bottoms, who was arrested after allegedly stealing a vehicle from a woman with a knife and leading authorities to a three-hour chase in and from Sumner and Davidson counties in late October.

“I called for help because he snapped, he broke and no one would listen to me,” said Cecelia.

Joshua, whose criminal record dates back to 2003, was on parole at the time of his most recent arrest. Medical records show that he was admitted to a local hospital two weeks before the latest incident and that he developed a psychosis.

Cecelia received an email with phone numbers to call for further treatment and a message saying “Good luck”, which she described as heartless. Although Cecelia called several times, she said no one ever responded.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.

Nathan Miller, who never treated Joshua, has worked in behavioral health for 25 years. According to him, this story is more common than you might think.

“The need is obviously overwhelming right now,” he explained. “Staff is always disproportionate.”

“You often have a waiting list, especially at inpatient centers, hospital inpatient beds, substance abuse treatment centers,” Miller added.

In addition, self-medication often begins.

“They’re trying to deal with it in a way that isn’t necessarily conducive to better health, so then we have the substance abuse problem on top of a mental health problem, which is co-occurring, leading to more interaction with the police, more jail time,” Miller said.

Cecelia, feeling failed and hopeless, cried as she asked, “What should I do? What does his son do?”

She acknowledged that without proper treatment, the cycle will continue.

“They just throw them the key, throw them away and then expect them to be fine and then send them back out into the world,” Cecelia said, adding that her husband needs help.

News 2 contacted Joshua’s court-appointed attorney to ask if a psychiatric evaluation would be requested. We need to hear something.

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