The ability of mental illness to fray family bonds is stunningly cruel.
Obviously, the person with the diagnosis bears the brunt of illnesses like depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. But when a loved one is suffering, siblings, parents and children are drawn in as well. Their patience alone will not bring resolution, or even a stabilization of the disease’s effects. Nor can deep financial pockets cure all.
And if the beloved family member is an adult, unwilling or unable to manage their treatment alone, strained relations often unravel further.
And so, a memorial service on Sunday thanked the Kansas City organizations that helped when Brandy Helbock-Castaneda’s family could no longer take the lead. Mary Helbock, Brandy’s younger sister, organized the event at the Scottish Rite Temple.
“We’re trying to pay it forward,” she said. “This isn’t just about Brandy; she got a lot of help from people in this city.”
Especially highlighted was the advocacy of Hope, Faith Ministries, which helped when her sister was homeless. The organization, at 705 Virginia Ave., then assisted further through their many day programs.
Brandy Helbock-Castaneda was found in January by city workers. Her body had been stuffed into a trash bag and dumped in the 4900 block of Brooklyn Avenue. The cause of death, her sister said, was blunt force trauma to the head. She had been missing a month. The case is unsolved. She was 42.
The sisters had recently reconnected. There is eight years difference in their ages. Other family live out of state.
Mary Helbock said she initially remained hopeful when her sister’s roommate called to say that she’d gone missing. Brandy had a plane ticket, an upcoming trip to visit family in Colorado. But when those dates passed and her ticket went unused, her sister knew something awful might have happened.
On a Facebook page she has dedicated to her sister, Mary Helbock favors photos from when Brandy was with family members, smiling outdoors by a river. She looks healthy, vibrant.
Brandy had worked in nursing, had been married and was a mother of two. Her sister traces the personal struggles to a diagnosis about 10 years ago of multiple sclerosis. A divorce was difficult for her to manage. She developed lesions on her brain. She had complications from diabetes and depression. She attempted suicide.
Sunday was a small event by numbers; about 30 people gathered to hear a eulogy given by Mary Helbock’s pastor from Restoration Church in Liberty. In the Scottish Rite Temple’s entryway, long tables were set up to highlight organizations that had aided Brandy during her life. And others that she’s linked with now by her murder.
Momma On a Mission, Parents of Murdered Children, Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, Rose Brooks, KC Mothers in Charge and Crime Stoppers were among those represented. Candles were lit in honor of all who have been murdered this year, are missing or otherwise have lost their way in life.
“It’s the ultimate in disrespect,” Andre Thurman Sr., director of 100 Men of Blue Hills, said of how Brandy’s body was found. The organization had helped with cleanups of litter in East Side neighborhoods, and Mary Helbock joined them in the work. The spot where her sister was discovered had been known for dumping.
Mary Helbock continues to return to the site. On Facebook, she posts pictures of a memorial there, decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter. The first time she visited, the area was so full of litter, she was able to fill bags and bags with trash. But in subsequent visits, the number of bags needed diminished.
She’ll also continue to fundraise for Hope Faith Ministries, so others will find help there as her sister once did.