Mother chronicles son's battle

Dottie Pacharis chronicles her son Scott's five prolonged episodes battling severe bipolar disorder in her 2011 book, “Mind on the Run: A Bipolar Chronicle,” published by Idyll Arbor.

Dottie Pacharis chronicles her son Scott's five prolonged episodes battling severe bipolar disorder in her 2011 book, “Mind on the Run: A Bipolar Chronicle” published by Idyll Arbor.

Scott Baker spent years traveling the East Coast, fleeing his severe bipolar demons and the federal agents he thought were trying to kill him.

About this series

The mentally ill are under scrutiny and pressure like never before. Mental health budgets have been slashed. State inpatient beds are at historic lows. Emergency rooms and jails are the new front lines of care. And gun-control debates focus on the mentally ill.

But there is promise for change. State funding may increase. Research shows these illnesses are based in flawed physiology, not character flaws. And many who suffer are openly challenging stigmas.

The Post and Courier will examine these issues in a series of stories over the coming months. In this installment, we look at local emergency rooms where the severely mentally ill are arriving sicker and staying longer than ever before.

Scotty, as his mother still calls him, would stop along his travels, temporarily sheltered by his five siblings and parents who tried to comfort and support him — and convince him he needed help.

In 2006 he stopped in Summerville to visit his brother Jeff, who by then knew Scott had become dangerously ill.

Scott needed to be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, said his mother, Dottie Pacharis, who today splits her time between Florida and Virginia.

Once a young business owner, Scott had spent his 27th birthday in a psychiatric hospital with a fresh diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder.

Untreated, the brain disorder took him on what Pacharis called “a 13-year roller coaster ride.”

Her son was committed 14 times in five states as he traveled the coast.

But after each release he wouldn't take his medication or seek outpatient treatment.

Each time, he relapsed and sank more deeply into depression and mania that weakened his grasp on reality.

Finally, he stopped in Summerville, and his brother called to have him committed again.

Then, for four days, Scott languished in the Summerville Medical Center's ER. Staff there tried to care for him, feeding him and trying to keep him calm and safe, his mother said.

But by then, Scott had deteriorated beyond what the ER could provide for days on end.

He was 6 feet, 3 inches tall, delusional and angry. The staff restrained him to his bed to keep him — and them — safe until they could find an available psychiatric bed for him.

“The situation grew worse every day,” Pacharis recalled.

As the wait turned to days, Scott flailed, cursing in a violent rage, until he flipped his hospital bed over.

Finally, a psychiatric bed became available.

Five weeks later, Scott was discharged with medication and orders to get outpatient care. He did not.

Instead, he kept running from the federal agents chasing him in his mind.

Less than a year later, he ended the chase.

Scott Baker committed suicide. He had just turned 40.

Jeff died the next year, the result of alcohol abuse and, their mother said, guilt over not saving his brother.

Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her on Twitter at @JenBerryHawes.