‘This has been very tragic for our family’ : Stabbing victim’s family speaks on mental health

They want to highlight the challenges families face as they seek support
Stabbing victim's family speaks on mental health
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 9:05 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A Leon County family spoke out for the first time since their loved one survived a stabbing, allegedly by her own son.

They want to shed a light on mental health and the challenges families can sometimes run into as they try to prevent tragedy.

The family of 24-year-old Christopher Keith said they called the Leon County Sheriff’s Office in the weeks leading up to what transpired.

After WCTV reported on Keith’s arrest, they reached out to the newsroom to share more about what they experienced.

WCTV’s Madison Glaser had LCSO walk her through the process and spoke with 211 Big Bend about how responses to a mental health crisis typically work.

“The day leading up to the incident, they had a good day,” said Christopher Keith’s Aunt, Tina Daniels.

Tina Daniels recalls the day her sister’s calm evening took an unimaginable turn.

Her nephew, Christopher Keith accused of stabbing his mother in the chest on March 10.

According to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, he called 911 himself and when deputies arrived his mother identified him as the attacker.

Keith however told deputies ‘I didn’t do it,’ according to court documents.

Daniels said she tried getting her nephew help in the weeks leading up to the attack.

“They did instruct us on how to get him mental help later but he needed it at that moment,” Keith said.

The sheriff’s office wouldn’t comment on details about the investigation because it is active but detailed protocols deputies follow when responding to a call.

“They’re going through a list of questions and we identify what the crisis is. A person can have a conversation with the deputy on scene and they have to meet criteria according to the Baker Act law,” said Angela Green-Sherrod, the Leon County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

Green-Sherrod said they’ve also launched a mental health unit where they have a team available 24 hours a day.

“The community really bought into the idea of having these teams around almost instantly. When you look at our detention facilities, a lot of those cases are mental health patients right now,” Green said. “From the standpoint of having this team being able to respond, we want to reduce how many people are getting incarcerated.”

With limited options, Stephen Sardelis with 211 Big Bend acknowledges it can be difficult to get immediate action.

In the State of Florida, someone who is concerned for a family member’s safety can utilize a document called an ex parte order which would allow for temporary detention through the Baker Act.

“Ideally first you’ll be able to talk to them about why they might need a psychiatric evaluation and try to talk to them about the options available for them. If they are still refusing and you think they may be a danger to themselves or a danger to someone else, that’s where the ex parte order comes into play,” said Deputy Director of Hotline Programs Stephe Sardelis.

But an ex parte is not a guarantee, and it requires cooperation.

The Daniels family told WCTV they were not successful in completing the order.

For other situations, Sardelis said the 988 crisis hotline could be helpful.

“When it comes to mental health problems a lot of people call 911 because there isn’t literal harm happening at the moment but people are still worried about that family member possibly causing harm in the future, and that’s when 988 can be called as a resource,” Sardelis said.

For Daniels, she hoped sharing her story could mean another family never has to go through this.

“He was not coherent, and that’s what his mother would tell you if she was here. But she’s still recovering in the hospital, and it’s been very, very tragic for our family,” Keith said.

A hearing on Keith’s competency is scheduled for April 12, according to online records.

Green-Sherrod said you can register your home with the 911 consolidated dispatch team which lets deputies know what they may be responding to.

A good reminder to those who may be suffering from a mental crisis are encouraged to call 211 as they provide emotional support, crisis counseling and referrals to those who need it.