Perhaps one of the worst nightmares as a parent is to have a child go missing. Rosie O’Donnell lived that nightmare for a week as Chelsea, her 17-year-old daughter that she co-parents with ex-wife Kelli O’Donnell, went missing with her therapy dog. While their daughter was found safe, O’Donnell has shed a light on some of the issues that mental illness can visit on those it affects.
Although O’Donnell’s daughter has been missing since August 11, no one knew that Chelsea was missing until August 18 with O’Donnell hitting social media to try and determine where her daughter was.
There were conflicting reports as to whether or not Chelsea had been in touch with O’Donnell since her disappearance. The family had told police that while they had not seen her, they had been in contact with her but O’Donnell’s rep Cindi Berger denied that this was the case. O’Donnell explained, via her rep, that her daughter was found to have mental illness but had stopped taking her medication, prompting Chelsea to run away with her therapy dog.
“Chelsea, like millions of people, lives with mental illness. It has been a difficult road for Chelsea and her family and they just want her back safe.” Berger said.
O’Donnell lives in South Nyack, New York, and police there told authorities in Barneget, New Jersey, on Tuesday that they believed Chelsea was there, said Lt. Keith Germain of the Barneget police. Police attended a residence there and asked for Chelsea, informing the reluctant residents there that they would not be leaving until Chelsea came out. With O’Donnell’s daughter found, the police left without incident. Details about the connection between O’Donnell and the residence in New Jersey are as yet unknown.
Knowing her daughter was found, O’Donnell once again took to social media to spread the word that Chelsea was safe.
chelsea has been found and is safe in police custody - thank u all for the help and light #missingchildren— Rosie (@Rosie) August 18, 2015
With Chelsea’s disappearance and the notice that Chelsea had a mental illness and was no longer taking her medication comes the realization of how important it is to understand the nature of mental illness. According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI), around 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in any year. For ages 8 to 15, that estimate hovers at around 13 percent.
Sadly, not everyone gets treatment right away, and while O’Donnell’s daughter was found, it has been widely acknowledged that her daughter was in need of medical attention. With some mental illness, neglecting to take medication can result in a return of symptoms that would otherwise be controlled. At least 50 percent of cases of chronic mental illness start around age 14 and people may not get help until decades later.
While O’Donnell may have the resources to ensure her daughter gets the mental health support she needs, at this point, she could very well be more relieved that her daughter was found safe. For more information about mental health disorders, visit www.nami.org.
(Photo by Ben Hider/Getty Images)