Recent Nashville house fires raise questions about mental health - WSMV News 4

Recent Nashville house fires raise questions about mental health

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Stephen Comiskey is accused of setting his Hermitage home on fire. (WSMV file photo) Stephen Comiskey is accused of setting his Hermitage home on fire. (WSMV file photo)

Questions about mental health are coming to light after two house fires in Nashville over the last year.

In both cases, neighbors or family members said the men accused of setting the fires showed signs of needing help.

In December 2016, the family of John Bond told News 4 he suffered from bipolar disorder. His family said he set their Kings Lane home on fire.

"It had to go this far for a reason. We've been going through this for 11 years," his father, Joseph Bond said last year.

Last week, Stephen Comiskey told Springfield police he set his car on fire because of evil in the van. Nashville Fire investigators charged Comiskey with aggravated arson for allegedly setting his Hermitage home on fire.

News 4 discovered calls to his house for a mentally ill person earlier this year. Neighbors described his behavior before he was charged with arson.

"He did odd things. He spray painted his van. In the road there, you can still see some of where he put "Help 911" on the road," a neighbor told News 4 last Friday.

Adam Graham with the Mental Health Cooperative in Nashville said they often work with police.

"They will call us and say this is what we're seeing and we can consult with them over the phone," said Graham, who is the emergency psychiatric services program manager. "If we believe we can intervene and help, we can either go out to the police officer at the scene or have them bring someone in to us."

Mobile Crisis Center counselors hope people reach out before things escalate. News 4 asked whose responsibility it is to take that first step.

“It can be anybody's. If you're worried about somebody, you can always call and ask your questions," said Michael Randolph, a crisis supervisor. "If it's a serious situation where someone is grabbing a knife or someone is in immediate danger, maybe calling the police and then calling us. If someone doesn't call before it escalates, then mobile crisis team steps in."

Mobile crisis counselors take a comprehensive approach, getting to know the person's background, if they've taken anything, or had problems in the past.

"There's a lot of different kinds of families in mental health crisis, and they have so many things in common – rich, poor, anything. Everybody just wants help," Randolph said.

Once counselors take care of what's happening right now, it's time to think longer term.

"We're going to work with any outpatient provider we can to set up a good path toward recovery and healing," Graham said.

The mobile crisis center could not tell News 4 whether they responded in either of those house fire cases. Graham said if someone shows severe symptoms to police, they will get a call.

If you think you or a loved one may need help, call the mobile crisis center at 615-726-0125. Their walk-in center is located at 237 Cumberland Bend in Nashville. The center and crisis line are open 24 hours every day.

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