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Our Mental Health Blogs

When Your Family Is a Mess and It’s Hard to Give Thanks

When Your Family Is a Mess and It’s Hard to Give Thanks

Giving thanks is hard when your family is a mess. When I started thinking about writing this Thanksgiving post, I almost wrote my manager to let her know I’m not qualified to write about mental illness in the family. Do you know why? Because I feel like a fraud. My family relationships are not all cleaned up and pretty like I’d like them to be. Rather, the messiness in my family amplifies as we make plans for the holidays. I want to wave a magic wand and make all of my relationships work, if only on these special days. I know what it’s like when your family is a mess and it’s hard to give thanks.

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Helping Me Understand My Son with Schizophrenia

Helping Me Understand My Son with Schizophrenia

Sometimes, the only way I get a sense of what my son, Ben, goes through as he hears voices and tries to process them is through his poetry and prose:

I feel like everybody is piecing together this huge puzzle and I was born with it already solved.  I guess that’s a post-life thing. But with me it’s always been about diving deeper.  Delving and diving in gray water depths instead of trying to pull that water up to your level where its shade is altered.  Its as a different sun shine in your in your world a mirror of a sort that you struggle to see for in refusing to see yourself in disacceptance you are condemned to see it everywhere you go on everyone else’s face….wow I am really showing myself now the strange level these “normal” people live on….hard it be to shatter these dreams of them so solidified by causality taken as righteousness. And the illusion of consciousness. – Ben, 2002

But today I got a different perspective, thanks to my guest blogger, Katherine Walters, who, like Ben, has schizophrenia – but with more insight into it.

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Amanda Bynes and Schizophrenia: Should Her Parents Get Conservatorship?

Amanda Bynes and Schizophrenia: Should Her Parents Get Conservatorship?

Latest from Perez Hilton, the National Enquirer and other gossip (oh, excuse me, entertainment news) sites: “Is Amanda Bynes Schizophrenic?

Ignoring for the moment how much we hate that term “schizophrenic”, let’s get to the heart of the reported issue.

Amanda is not doing well, and her parents are worried.

How well I know the feeling.

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5 Lessons About Mental Illness: Grief, Gratitude and Advocacy

5 Lessons About Mental Illness: Grief, Gratitude and Advocacy

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda…

Those of us dealing with mental illness in our families can’t help but occasionally compare where we are to “what might have been.” It’s human nature, I suppose. While comparison can be inspiring, it can also lead to needless disappointment. And we have had quite enough of that, thank you.

In my most Zen frame of mind, I am happy for others whose children are on their way to six-figure-incomes and a life with a clear timetable for success, love, and growth. In my not-so-Zen moments, I allow myself that twinge of jealousy.  For my son Ben can no more help his schizophrenia than I can stop a blizzard.

My mantra for returning to Zennish state, after processing human emotion:

“It is what it is.”

But that is not so easy when the human emotion is grief.

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Suicide and Your Child with Mental Illness

Suicide and Your Child with Mental Illness

Sometimes you’ve  just got to say the word: suicide.

Suicide is Preventable

Monday is World Suicide Prevention Day and if having the conversation saves even one life, it’s worth breaking through the fear of “rocking the boat.” Rock away.

Although dealing with my son Ben’s schizophrenia has been no picnic, and at times I have feared for his life via accident or attack, we know we are lucky in that he has only spoken of suicide once, in the early onset phase of his illness 15 years ago.  He tells me now that he was only trying to get my attention. Mission accomplished.

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Mental Illness at Work: How Support Makes a Difference

Mental Illness at Work: How Support Makes a Difference

Employer of the Year! There is no plaque, no luncheon, just my undying gratitude for not letting my son’s diagnosis of schizophrenia get in the way of keeping him on as a valued employee.

For that, Ben’s employer – and any employer with the foresight to see and treat mental illness the same way you’d look at any other illness – gets my personal award for “Employer of the Year.”

Thank you.

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Voices: The Art of Those Touched by Mental Illness

Voices: The Art of Those Touched by Mental Illness

“We’re all human beings too, no matter what anybody says.”

These are the words of “P.G.H.”, age 16, whose art is part of a traveling exhibition called Voices:The Art of Children, Adolescents and Young Adults Touched by Mental Illness now displayed at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT.  The exhibit will be there through noon on April 13th, 2012, and then will travel to other areas of Connecticut.

Young adults diagnosed with mental illness often feel their potential is lost in the sea of crisis, diagnosis, treatment, and stigma. Especially stigma.  Ann Nelson, founder of advocacy organization A Compassionate Mind, wants to create opportunities that, in her words,  “offers a voice for youth living with a mental illness utilizing their artist gifts as an awareness and stigma reduction tool.”

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Grateful for Mental Health Progress, Advocating for More

Grateful for Mental Health Progress, Advocating for More

Today’s Thanksgiving post features a guest blogger named Erik, with his kind permission.  I am so grateful that Ben Behind his Voices is being read not just by families dealing with mental illness, but also by healthcare providers such as psychiatrists, nurses and social workers, and by those who have a mental illness diagnosis themselves.

thank-youErik’s story both touched my heart and taught me a lot on this Thanksgiving day, as I continue to learn about points of view that are different from mine – as a mother/caregiver of someone with schizophrenia.

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Schizophrenia and Success: Why Not?

Schizophrenia and Success: Why Not?

Is success possible with schizophrenia? Absolutely! But how do we define success for those living with mental illness? Two opposing viewpoints.

Sure, it’s not the story you usually get in the media:  Someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizoaffective actually has a life. This person loves, works, contributes, has useful skills – and is an active participant in his/her own treatment.

But in the NY Times this week, Benedict Carey’s article is there on the front page: Lives Restored:A High-Profile Executive Job as Defense Against Mental Ills.1 Keris Myrick, 50, the chief executive of a nonprofit organization, has found ways to manage her illness – and thrive.

Will this happen for my son, Ben?  I don’t know – but I can hope.  I can’t expect, but I will dream.  For, right now, there is progress in his life that I hadn’t dared to dream about even one year ago.

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Peer-to-Peer: Mental Health Support Beyond the Family

Peer-to-Peer: Mental Health Support Beyond the Family

Last night, Ben came home from an “Anonymous” meeting and shared with me that there had been an unexpected discussion about mental illness, and that (in his words) “about 90% of the people in the room admitted that they have one.” I wanted to press for more details – you bet I did – but I’ve learned not to push the learning. The fact that he chose to tell me this much – without, of course, revealing names or details – seems like a good thing. Did he participate? Did he admit he has an illness, too? Did he feel supported in this group of peers? I didn’t dare ask. But I did wonder.

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