Mädchen Amick Reveals Son Sly’s ‘Scary’ Bipolar 1 Diagnosis: ‘It Was Traumatic’

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Madchen Amick

YURI HASEGAWA

The son of actress Mädchen Amick, Sly Alexis, grew up competing in athletics under the guidance of his father, David Alexis, 60, while getting good grades in school.

“He was a normal kid and got along with teachers and coaches,” Amick, 52, tells PEOPLE exclusively from her home in Los Angeles.

But when Sly, now 30, started college at UC Irvine in the fall of 2010, everything changed.

After witnessing the death of a classmate during his freshman year, Sly began to behave differently from himself and started having problems with drugs and alcohol.

“There was a lot of delusional thinking,” Amick says of her son’s behavior. “There was a lot of talk about things that just didn’t make any sense, and he also admitted things like it seemed like the phone was listening to him and the TV was watching him and very paranoid thoughts and feelings. larger than life personality.”

crazy

crazy

Things got so bad in November 2011 during Sly’s sophomore year that his roommates called Amick to say he had left the house without his cell phone or wallet and they were concerned.

“Suddenly the world was pulled out from under him,” says de River valley says star. “We got together as a family and drove from Los Angeles to the streets of Irvine just to try and find him. It took hours, but we eventually succeeded. He just walked down the street, really, really freaking out.”

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After the couple’s daughter, Mina Tobias, 29, who was studying to be a therapist at the time, texted her mother that she felt something was “really wrong,” the family headed straight to the hospital for answers.

“I tried to explain to the paramedics what was going on, and they just looked at him like another kid on drugs,” says Amick. “But they took him in overnight and they basically said, ‘He just seems to have an addiction problem. You’re going to have to deal with that as a family.’ They fired him a few hours later and we took him home.”

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Knowing this was more than an addiction problem, the family spent the next few months in and out of hospitals and treatment centers, but it didn’t help.

After Sly called his mother one night thinking he was dying, Amick went to Irvine to find him in a horrible condition, convulsing on the floor after taking drugs. He also suffered from psychosis. “It was traumatic for him, for us.”

Madchen Amick rollout

Madchen Amick rollout

Courtesy

She finally took him to a real mental hospital in 2012 who evaluated Sly and diagnosed him with Bipolar 1.

“Then they said, ‘This isn’t an addiction issue, this is a mental health issue,'” Amick explains. “As scary as that was, it actually became a relief because now it had a name and there was a way to try and figure out what to do about it.”

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“There have been several times when it felt like he wasn’t going to make it and we were called to the hospital [for alcohol poisoning] to actually say goodbye,” says his father. “But he always fought to live and got through it.”

According to Chicago-based psychiatrist Dr. Eric Schieber, there are two types of bipolar disorder [also known as Manic Depressive Disorder] and it can affect as many as eight to ten million Americans.

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“One of the main things to notice is mood swings in a person who actually meets the criteria for bipolar disorder,” Dr. Schieber to PEOPLE. “The mood swings can be significant and on the depressive side it can be major depression. On the other side, the manic side, it can be a full-blown manic episode.”

“Some of those symptoms may include depressed mood, sleep disturbances, lack of interest in things, excessive worrying or guilt, poor concentration, impaired appetite, a general feeling of lethargy, and suicidal thoughts. Some of the symptoms of a manic episode may include hyperactivity , strained speech, racing thoughts, sleep disturbances, and even delusions of grandeur, so there are many things to look out for in bipolar disorder.”

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With the help of a good institution who put together a treatment plan of mental health therapy and medication, Sly was able to stabilize his mood. He got back on his feet in the summer of 2012 and enrolled in a local community college where he became interested in art and music.

Madchen Amick

Madchen Amick

YURI HASEGAWA

Sly destabilized again in Spring 2021, but this time Amick was much better equipped to handle things.

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Now 19 months sober, Sly has been able to stabilize his mood again and is thriving as a behavioral therapist while studying to become a case manager so he can help others with mental health issues.

“I’m on the other side now,” says Sly. “I used to be the patient and now I’m the caregiver. When I’m sober I can avoid any kind of instability.”

Amick and her family keep their promise to change things for others with their nonprofit Don’t Mind Me, an inclusive mental health foundation that helps people navigate mental health care when they can’t afford care.

“As a foundation, we are starting our first scholarship program,” says Amick. “We are super proud to be able to support a treatment center that finally worked 10 years later.”

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