From Stigma to Solution

Changing the Stigma of Mental Health
Mention that your child is going into the hospital for a heart condition or cancer treatment and a world of questions, concern, and sympathy opens up.

Mention your child is going into the hospital for psychiatric treatment and a world of silence and judgement ensues.

In Stephen P. Hinshaw’s Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, he talks about the need to de-stigmatize mental illness.  He references a time when his father’s own psychiatrist (!) urged the family to keep the illness from his children for fear it would destroy them.

Sometimes it’s the person themselves suffering from a mental health condition that is the one that feels the need to stay silent. Doreen Sutherland recently published her struggles with bipolar and the ways in which she helped contribute to the stigma.  Now struggling with cancer and receiving an outpouring of support she ironically points out how her bipolar, which has the same mortality rate as the kind of cancer she has, was treated in a completely different manner.

Some progress has been made, but there’s still a stigma associated with mental health that prevents us from focusing on serious solutions.

So, how do you change it?

Maybe it starts by viewing an illness in the brain the same way we view an illness in our kidney or bones.

Maybe it starts with just talking about it more.  I agree with Hinsaw’s assessment that the more stories and experiences we are exposed to about any topic tends to normalize it. And once you begin talking the solutions will come.

If you have a friend or family member struggling with mental illness, think about how you’d respond if their health was being affected by heart disease or a leg injury.  The perspective changes considerably.  It deserves the same sympathy, support, and consideration.

Glenn Close got it right –  “What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation, about illnesses that affect not only individuals but their families as well.”

What doesn’t kill you?

What doesn’t kill you?


Yeah, yeah Kelly Clarkson.  It might make you stronger but I doubt she was doing her own book marketing when she wrote her recent children’s book.

I’m in full book proposal writing mode and working through the marketing portion of it. There is so much to manage and consider! How are you going to market? Do you have a press kit?  What’s your editorial contact list like?  Where will you speak? What’s your blog and website look like? Are you on Twitter?  Facebook? Instagram?  Will you be available to be on TV?  Willing to sell your first born?

Ok, they’re not asking for that last one.  Yet.  But man, getting published today requires some WORK beyond the writing.  (If ya got any tips, comments, thoughts or shortcuts leave ’em in the comments because Lord can I use ’em!)

I think I spent more hours on my marketing plan this week than my job!  But it’s moving along and I am slowly inching closer to being ready to send out agent queries. Which I’m sure will bring its own kind of pain. 🙂

Since I wrote my last post about the need for more mental health resources I came across this article about the need for more child psychiatrists which I couldn’t agree with more. Some great ideas in it that could go a long way to helping children with mental illness get resources started early where they are needed.  Again, a win win for all involved.


Pay Now, or Pay Later

Pay Now, or Pay Later

Now or Later

I’ve been editing a chapter this week about a year when our son’s behavior was really spinning out of control.  Violent behavior, police interactions, juvenile detention, med changes, doctor changes  – and he was only nine.  It was a lot to manage.

I was able to do it because I had good health, a stable job, family support, and I’m intuitive about searching out solutions.  If you are lacking in even one of these things, I cannot imagine how you would manage the challenge of accessing the right resources for your child, finding a doctor, getting them to appointments, and managing their medications.

During the years our son was in self contained classrooms I witnessed not only the other children struggling but also their parents and the teachers.  The parents often didn’t know where to start looking for help and the teachers were overwhelmed managing behavior issues in the classroom while trying to teach.  Everyone limps through the school year managing each crisis as it pops up through a combination of suspensions, behavior management, and modifications to their educational setting.

You might be able to push them through to graduation but it’s not going to end well if the problems have not been addressed and managed early on. When you have extreme behavior issues at school it can lead to suspension.  When you have extreme behavioral issues as an adult it can lead to arrest and placement in a system not setup to manage mental health.  We all pay for that.

Schools need to be more proactive in managing support by developing a network of mental health resources in the community they can steer parents to.  Walk them through the options.  Provide an advocate.  Connect them with other parents facing the same issues.  Maybe something like the “emergency care hubs” Ohio is trying to setup  or classes like NAMI Southeastern Arizona is offering that teach effective skills and coping methods – what great resources!

The alternative is muddling along the way we have and pushing children through the system only to come out with a bigger problem on the other end.


When Netflix Hijacks Your Editing Time

When Netflix Hijacks Your Editing Time


Not a productive week for book editing.  Good intentions were side swiped by a sick kiddo, the usual demands of work and family (why do they need dinner EVERY night!?) and . . .  Netflix.  It just sucks you in!  But I was intrigued by their new series, Thirteen Reasons Why, and the hype around it.

I have to be honest, my first thought while watching was, here we go, more angst from teenagers making mountains out of mole hills.  Get a grip already – life is hard!

But as I watched all 13 episodes (I know! I should have been editing!) I did gain a new understanding about suicide as a mental illness and an appreciation that someone is taking the time to increase awareness.

There’s a lot of debate swirling around about whether this series is potentially harmful for teens to watch, but I think the value of more people seeing it outweighs any risks. When you shine a spotlight on a topic it forces people to look at it and discuss it. Continued discussion brings familiarity and an increased comfort level which hopefully leads to actions and solutions.  And God knows we need both of those for mental health in this country.

Not too long ago there was a stigma to having a child with ADHD.  That has lessened as more parents are facing this challenge and talking with others about their experiences and struggles.

That’s why I decided to write a book about my experience with childhood mental illness. There are a lot of parents struggling with the the behavioral issues we did (I see them tearing their hair out daily on Facebook posts) and it’s important they know they are not alone. Hopefully it will start more conversations.

Maybe it sparks a series. Ya hear that Netflix?! 🙂

Writing is the Easy Part

Writing is the Easy Part


Editing is not my favorite part.  Slow, tedious, and an opportunity to really second guess what you wrote during that first round.  I’m wondering if I was drunk when I wrote parts of it (?!) and I’m grateful for the opportunity to fix that mess!

But then there are parts I know I got right because those chapters bring back vivid memories that make me feel like I’m right back in the thick of it.  I’m mentally tired after editing those chapters because it’s exhausting reliving what was a very stressful time in our lives. I think it’s clear in my day-to-day accounts how chaotic it was but I don’t really address in the book about the isolation we felt. We couldn’t adequately explain to anyone what was going on and no one really understood what we were dealing with.  I read an article recently referring to childhood mental illness as the “no casserole” illness that hit the nail on the head.  If your child has cancer or is born with a physical defect it’s automatic for others to sympathize and offer support (as they should!) but when your kiddo has a mental illness there seems to be more of a blame game and an unspoken rule not to address it.  In our case they would have had to bring casseroles for a very long time (ha!) since our drama went on for years until we found a manageable solution and adequate treatment for him.

For anyone struggling day-to-day with children experiencing symptoms of mental illness there is a great support group on Facebook Oppositional Defiant Disorder – O.D.D. that is a good reminder you are not alone.  I see daily posts on this page of people at the end of their rope ready to give up and just plain worn out from trying to manage the chaos.  It helps to read those posts on days when you can’t imagine anyone else is dealing with the same issues.

Ok, enough procrastinating on my part.  Back.To.Editing!  Thank goodness for the Creative PENN and Writers Digest  – both great resources as I slog through this new publishing adventure. Great insights and tools. Let me in the comments if you have a good resource for new authors, editing, or just surviving the publishing process.



Book Written. Check!

Book Written. Check!


It apparently took being unemployed to motivate me into finally writing a book.  I’d been thinking about it for a very long time.  After 19 years (yikes!) working as a Marketing Communications Manager my position was eliminated during a re-organization which left me more time on my hands than I’d had in a long time.

Part of those 19 years were spent raising two boys who are now 15 and 12. The oldest  is Autistic and Bipolar which brought its own challenges.  Not sure how I even managed my job all of those years since most of the time while he was young I was running from work to the school, or a psychiatrist, or another therapist to manage the “drama of the day”.

I kept a lot of notes during those years.  Lots and lots of notes. I had to keep notes to keep track of the constantly changing medications and doctors and appointments but it was also therapeutic in some ways to be able to write down what was happening and scream at paper instead of people.

So those notes have now worked their way into a book.  But, it seems writing the book is the easy part! Next hurdles – editing, marketing, publishing.

This is going to be interesting, but not half as interesting as the book.  🙂