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Our Mental Health Blogs

Stigma-Busting: “I Am Enough”

Stigma-Busting: “I Am Enough”

Ben has a friend. A real friend.  They actually socialize. Last night, “the boys” were up until 2 am playing a video game, and I am about to drive them both to school so they can take their finals. They studied. They care about their grades. They talk about life, philosophy, favorite foods and TV shows, and just plain old everyday stuff.

This – as you may already know – seems like a miracle.

It’s as though Ben is finally getting to have his adolescence back – the years that schizophrenia stole, slowly and then nearly completely, until he began to stabilize with the right schizophrenia treatment – and then begin to rebuild.

Bust Stigma to Help Nurture Relationships

Certainly the symptoms of schizophrenia created the biggest obstacle. But the stigma that comes with mental illness came in a close second – and still does.

That’s why this new friendship – and, happily, a few others like it – is so miraculous.  Ben, after years of hiding his illness, is finally finding some friends who know who he is. Not all know as much as others, but every small step toward acceptance can inspire others.

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Giving Thanks: Living Life vs. Fighting Life

Giving Thanks: Living Life vs. Fighting Life

I take no credit for the title of this post. It comes from my son Ben, who is many ways wonderful. I hesitate to define him here with the label “diagnosed with schizophrenia” -but of course that’s why I write this blog, and why I wrote my book, Ben Behind His Voices. It’s the piece of him that makes his current insights so remarkable.

Recently Ben and I were talking about how much better his attitude has been – and I asked him why he thinks he is getting so much closer to his goals these days.  He, who used to tell me all rules were stupid and possible “government plots”, now cares deeply about punctuality, grades, and doing a good job.

Ben’s answer astounds me with its depth. He said:

“Well, now I’m living my life, not fighting my life.”

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From Stigma to Stability: Changing Minds About Mental Illness

From Stigma to Stability: Changing Minds About Mental Illness

Try an experiment:
Of the four pictures below, which do you think is representative of someone with mental illness? There can be more than one answer, but don’t overthink this: just follow your gut instinct.
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From Mental Health Crisis to Reclaiming Your Future: The Clubhouse

From Mental Health Crisis to Reclaiming Your Future: The Clubhouse

My son, Ben, who lives with paranoid schizophrenia, is in the process of rebuilding his life. After years of feeling buried under symptoms, distracted by hospitalizations, rejected from opportunities, and feeling left behind by friends whose lives had followed more predictable paths unfettered by mental illness, he is also (dare I say it? Yes!) reclaiming his future.

So far, so good.

Living with Mental Illness. Steps toward Recovering Life.

Reclaiming his future. How delicious. How marvelously hopeful. And it’s a phrase I heard echoed this week at a breakfast briefing of the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD) in New York City. I love this phrase, because it’s not only full of hope, it is full of truth – for those who manage to find their way to a Clubhouse, embrace its community, and take advantage of its opportunities.

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Harvesting Hope: Mental Illness Awareness Week

Harvesting Hope: Mental Illness Awareness Week

I not only dream for a world someday without stigma and with proper treatment for mental illness – I also hope for it. And, for that to happen, we need each other. Reflecting the theme of the recent NAMI Mercer (New Jersey) annual Harvest of Hope conference, we must work together to plant, nurture, and harvest the seeds of hope.

Another “Tragic Drama” re Schizophrenia?

On day three of Mental Illness Awareness Week, this news from the film world: another movie is being planned that will focus on a true story of someone diagnosed with schizophrenia – and, of course, the tragic results.

Because, I suppose, that is way more interesting to the viewing public than a person with treated schizophrenia, who has the courage, patience, and strength to pull his or life back together after a devastating diagnosis and numerous crises.

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Self-Stigma: When Mental Illness Stigma Comes From Within

Self-Stigma: When Mental Illness Stigma Comes From Within

I recently participated in a wonderful panel called “Self-Stigma Solutions” alongside three people who live not only with mental illness but also with the mental health stigma that comes along for the ride – both external stigma and internal self-stigma. Each person shared the messages they heard, once diagnosed:

  • “your life is over”
  • “you’ll never amount to anything now”
  • “you’ll never have friends”
  • “you may as well just give up”
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Living Alone with Mental Illness: Not for Everyone

Living Alone with Mental Illness: Not for Everyone

Is living independently the right goal for everyone? Whether or not you live with mental illness, I think the answer is: no. For some? Sure.  For others? Disaster – or at least not the ultimate goal.

Dangers of Sudden Independence

One year ago my son Ben “graduated” rather suddenly – too suddenly – from his place in a group home with 24-hour supervision to his very own apartment.  Within one month, we needed police intervention to remove him from that same apartment, where he had isolated himself in confusion and fear after missing his meds for a couple of days – and most likely cheeking them whenever he wasn’t closely watched before that.

Why? Certainly the rug was pulled out from under him way too fast – whoosh! You now are expected to function without structure, community, or purpose. Good luck with that – but also, for Ben (who is a very social person, even with his schizophrenia), he was, well, lonely.

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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 Stigma: Why I Speak For Ben For Now

Mental Illness Stigma: Why I Speak For Ben For Now

This is Ben’s journey, too.

That’s what I sometimes need to remind myself.

Mental Illness and Stigma

Sure, I have become the family spokesperson for our experience with mental illness, since writing a book and this blog about our journey “from chaos to hope” with schizophrenia. Still, when people ask me to come and speak, either in person or in the media, about the issues associated with our situation, they sometimes ask if Ben will come and speak too.

The answer is: No. Not yet, anyway. And I can only hope that Ben’s decision is not only respected, but understood.

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Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training: Thank You

Mental Health Crisis Intervention Training: Thank You

When my son, Ben, was in the first stages of recurring psychosis from schizophrenia, we were waiting for him to get “sick enough” to finally earn a bed in a psychiatric unit (don’t get me started on this). During that period, we had many encounters with our local police officers while Ben, and the rest of the family, were in crisis.

I am so happy that these officers were trained in mental health crisis intervention. I am thankful for their kindness and empathy toward Ben, Ali and me which made our traumatic situation more bearable. Even more importantly, their CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) made it possible to avoid the trauma-upon-trauma pile-up of emotions that could have escalated the crisis instead.

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