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Our Mental Health Blogs

Schizophrenia and the Social Brain: Why It Matters

Schizophrenia and the Social Brain: Why It Matters

My son Ben spent his Saturday afternoon playing basketball with 3 friends.

If you, too, have a child or other relative living with mental illness, you know that this is a small miracle – or maybe not so small. Ben’s social brain function has been among the victims of his schizophrenia. But it’s possible that it can come back – and, in some ways, it has begun to.

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HBO’s “Girls”: OCD, Anxiety and Hannah’s Parents

HBO’s “Girls”: OCD, Anxiety and Hannah’s Parents

“Are you taking your meds, sweetie?” asks Hannah’s Dad, juggling the cell phone as he shops in the hardware store.

“Of course I’m taking my meds!”shouts Hannah, as she compulsively counts to 8 in every imaginable way (Hannah has OCD), hides from life under her comforter, and tries to cope with the pain she has inflicted upon herself with a Q-Tip. (Hard to explain. Gotta see the show.)

Of course, Hannah is clearly not taking her meds.

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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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Parenting and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse

Parenting and Mental Illness: For Better or Worse

The love begins the moment we know we are pregnant – or perhaps even before that, as we dream about the child we might someday have. Then, with each passing day with our child- from the womb, to birth, and as the child grows -our  love grows, and the commitment strengthens.

Parental vows may be unspoken, but they are as strong as steel. We witness such vows all the time at weddings, but we parents silently take the same vow from the moment we know we are parents:

I, Mom/Dad, take you, son/daughter, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part.

All parents – indeed, all spouses too – know that hopes and dreams must alter as pieces of reality sets in. Our child may be a different sex than we had envisioned; he/she may be born with a birth defect; he/she may want to be a scientist when we had always hoped for a musician in the family. Reality may test our vows, but love is powerful enough to help us ride the waves – and when love seems harder to access, vows take us the rest of the way.

When Mental Illness Tests the Family

When illness enters the family picture, vows are more seriously tested. When that illness is a mental illness, the test is even more difficult.  

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When Mental Illness Hits the Family: Things to Remember

When Mental Illness Hits the Family: Things to Remember

After mental illness strikes a family, can a family get happiness back? Can they bond again? These are worrisome concerns because, after all, having a loved one with a serious mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can put a lot of stress on family members and change family dynamics.

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Friendship and Mental Illness: Belonging to “Club Meds”

Friendship and Mental Illness: Belonging to “Club Meds”

My son Ben, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 20 after five years of confusing onset symptoms, has often seemed “frozen in time” in this phase of recovery; emotionally and cognitively stuck at the age he had been when the symptoms began during high school.

Despite three relapses during this near decade of stabilization (all due to instances of refusing meds),  Ben has been in recovery most of those years and has progressed in many ways, as I wrote in an earlier post, Mental Illness Frozen in Time Can Thaw.

But, until recently, Ben had few friends and I wondered if he would ever get that particular joy back in his life, or when he might reach the stage of self-acceptance that is crucial to healthy friendships.

Would he ever again regain what he had before schizophrenia set in; the simple joy of having people with whom he could share a meal, see a movie, laugh and talk, or just hang out?

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Mental Health Treatment: Letter to the Governor

Mental Health Treatment: Letter to the Governor

to: Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Connecticut

Dear Governor Malloy,

Thank you for taking a stand this weekend for mental health treatment. According to the Connecticut Post, you received a “rousing ovation” at the U.S. Conference of Mayors for demanding that we remove the stigma from mental health issues, rather than destigmatizing violence as we do in many video games.

You said:

“If we spent as much time and energy on destigmatizing mental health treatment as we do in the proliferation of these video games that destigmatize violence, we as a society would make great gains.”

Governor, I couldn’t agree with you more.

Now it’s time to put the money (budget) where your statement is.

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Respect, Not Stigma: A Mental Illness Guest Post

Respect, Not Stigma: A Mental Illness Guest Post

I have a guest blogger this week – and she is in High School. Her name is Eliana Yashgur, and she attends Hebrew High School in New England. She wrote to me after reading Ben Behind His Voices, and shared her essay with me, which was a runner-up finalist in a contest competition run by a neuropsychiatry lab at which she hopes to intern this summer. I was so impressed by her work that I asked her to be my guest blogger.

That lab would be lucky to hire her!

If a high school student gets it, let’s hope the word will spread. HealthyPlace is doing its part to Stand Up for Mental Health. So is Eliana, so can we all.

Here is Eliana’s essay, including all research notes. Headlines, links  and images were added by me.

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Families Dealing with Mental Illness Left to Cope Alone

Families Dealing with Mental Illness Left to Cope Alone

A Cause of Sandy Hook School Shooting?

The obituaries in my local paper still contain too many heartbreaking attempts to sum up the life of a six-year-old. My friends continue to tearfully share personal connections to the heartbroken families in Newtown, where less than one week ago lives were tragically ended – and countless more changed – forever.

As we continue to cry out:

Why? how?  And how we prevent this from happening again?

The voices of reason speak out: Better Gun Control. Fewer violent video games. A shift in media coverage to stop sensationalizing violence. More enforcement of mandated treatment for those who need it. And – a cause we have felt personally ever since Ben’s diagnosis of schizophrenia – more help and services for those with mental health issues, and for their families.

Who will listen? Who will act?

We must. All of us. Pick a cause and advocate. Fight back. Speak out. Insist upon change. And don’t let these issues fade.

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Budget Cuts to Mental Health Services: At What Cost?

Budget Cuts to Mental Health Services: At What Cost?

I write this just a few hours after having spoken at a legislative breakfast in Connecticut, where looming budget cuts seem aimed at “saving money” by cutting funding to non-profit agencies that provide needed services to people who have disabilities or disadvantages ranging from poverty to down’s syndrome to mental illness…people who, with these services, have a chance to rebuild their dignity, their potential, their futures.

Without these services? The costs are astronomical – financially as well as emotionally. Homelessness, hopelessness, aimlessness, illness relapse, even crime.

And here we are, moments later, hearing the news that another shooting has occured – this time in our own backyard, in Newtown  CT. A shooter has opened fire in an elementary school. An elementary school.

Does this have anything to do with untreated mental illness? I have no idea, yet – but it is one of the first things that comes to my mind.

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