Mom wants to spread mental health awareness after family tragedy

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A local mom is trying to spread awareness about mental health after tragedy -- and turns out they are not the only family struggling in Colorado.

When KKTV first aired the Murphy family's interview detailing the horrific night their children were murdered, there was an overwhelming response from the community. Malik Murphy, 20, is accused of stabbing and killing his 5-year-old sister Sophia and 7-year-old brother Noah. While these crimes are unimaginable, many people said they could resonate on some level with the Murphys' mental health struggles.

11 News talked to CEO and president of Mental Health Colorado Andrew Romanoff, who says a new report shows Coloradans are not getting the mental health care they need -- partly because they can't find any providers.

"Southern Colorado is a place where in some cases mental health professionals are even few and farther between. Most of the mental health professionals are concentrated in the metro area," Romanoff said.

Melissa and Vinnie Murphy told reporter Kyla Galer things took a turn for the worse once Malik was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. According to the parents, when Malik found a cell phone at school he destroyed it instead of turning it in. Once school authorities caught wind they searched his backpack and found marijuana and knives.

"That was the first day of everything. That was the first downfall for everything for us," Melissa said.

At that age, Malik admitted he had killed animals and had thoughts of killing his family. That's what sparked four straight years of intense counseling and visits to mental hospitals like Aspen Point and Emily Griffith Center, plus a trial of medications.

But the parents say they felt more and more helpless as Malik became an adult.

While in counseling at Aspen Point, Melissa tells 11 News he got in trouble with the law. After going to jail for a short time, he couldn't go back to his original counselor and had to start over with someone new, who wasn't helping him.

"He couldn't really, wouldn't really talk to me much because Malik's 19. And Malik may be bipolar, but we need Malik to discuss that and talk to us. And he was with a counselor who couldn't write medications."

Melissa continued, "I can't sit in on the appointments and I can't give my input anymore, so it's just frustrating."

Just months before he allegedly attacked his family, Melissa says he ran off. When she tried to call local crisis centers no one would tell her if Malik was there since he was considered an adult.

Mental Health Colorado says this is very common for parents and there's no "quick fix," but getting more resources could help.

Romanoff says there's a delay when people try to get mental health help despite the law, which states if you have a mental health need you should be able to get help within seven days.

"It means that many cases a mental health condition can become a crisis. It means our economy is suffering because people aren't showing up to work as often. We are turning our jails and prisons into warehouses for people with mental illness or substance use disorders," he said.

Mental Health Colorado says the state responds well to crises but not as successful when it comes to prevention.

"We wait too long to get the mental health care we need in part because we can't find a provider."

The Murphy family hopes by sharing their story they can help spread awareness about mental health and the hardships they faced while trying to get their son help.

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You can also call the statewide 24-hour crisis hotline: 1-844-493-TALK.