Stop the stigma

Today CBS television presented an hour show about the need to stop the stigma of mental illness. This is a subject very near and dear to me. As I state in the piece I've posted below, I truly believe that had my son been open about his bipolar disorder and got the help he needed from family, friends, and doctors he could still be alive today.  Click here for access to the CBS show. And here are my thoughts: How Do We Stop the Stigma of Mental Illness? My family is rampant with mental illness. But as far back as I can remember not a one of my relatives used those words. My mother told me my grandmother had a “nervous breakdown” after her oldest daughter, my mother’s sister, died of uterine cancer. She was hospitalized and given electric shock treatments and then she seemed fine. Also two of my uncles had to be hospitalized for “depression.” In good times one uncle spoke five languages, remembered stories of his childhood in Lithuania and Russia, and told the corniest … [Read more...]

Fiction: another way to erase stigma

My guest today, Joanell Serra, explores the idea of reducing the stigma of mental illness by openly describing the mental illnesses fictional characters experience. That is to say, being open and communicative about mental illness in fiction and/or real life helps reduce stigma and paves the way to recovery rather than hiding some pretty grotesque characters in corners as was done to Miss Havisham, in Charles Dickens Great Expectations. With that in mind it is easy to understand that the characters in her debut novel, The Vines We Planted, are deeply portrayed and very well written so that they can work through the many emotional and challenging issues they encounter in her book. Please help me welcome Joanell Serra during her WOW! Women on Writing book tour. Can we reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness through fiction? by Joanell Serra When we think of characters with mental illness in fiction, there are many extreme examples to choose from: Billy Pilgrim from … [Read more...]

Academy Awards revisited

I'm a movie junky. I can't see enough of them. So of course I love the Academy Awards television special. I never miss it. And in preparation I try to see all the movies with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Unfortunately I didn't quite make that goal for the 2014 movies. I didn't see Two Nights, One Night for which Marion Cotillard had a best actress nomination. That movie is still on my to-see list along with the documentary shorts. I also looked forward to seeing Neil Patrick Harris on this year's award show. I loved him as Doogie, so I was sure I'd love him Sunday night. And I wasn't disappointed at least with his opening joke and opening song and dance number. So sorry Jack Black interrupted it. I did think, however, that he looked a little embarrassed trying to emulate Birdman's undies scene. Anything to spice up the show, right? Doogie's opening joke in welcoming the audience to 2014's movies as the best and the whitest seemed to open the … [Read more...]

Welcome the editors of the new anthology, Beyond Belief, The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions

I'm so excited to offer you a giveaway of the anthology Beyond Belief, The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions. This is also your opportunity to join Cami and Susan for a discussion on: "Why Women Stay in Religious Communities." Thank you, WOW Women on Writing, for inviting me to host Cami and Susan today. Beyond Belief addresses what happens when women of extreme religions decide to walk away. Editors Cami Ostman (a de-converted fundamentalist born-again Christian)and Susan Tive (a former Orthodox Jew) have compiled a collection of powerful personal stories written by women of varying ages, races, and religious backgrounds who share one commonality: they've all experienced and rejected extreme religions. Covering a wide range of religious communities including Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Calvinist, Moonie, and Jehovah's Witness and containing contributions from authors like Julia Scheeres (Jesus Land), the stories in Beyond Belief reveal how these … [Read more...]

Kudos to celebrities who work to erase stigma

Catherine Zeta-Jones checked into a mental health facility this Monday for bipolar disorder treatment. And I applaud her. She is proactive and committed to periodic care. What's so important is that this news, so openly provided, helps erase stigma. "It's not easy, she says. I'm not the kind of person who likes to shout out my personal issues from the rooftops, but with my bipolar becoming public, I hope fellow sufferers will know it's completely controllable. I hope I can help remove any stigma attached to it, and that those who don't have it under control will seek help with all that is available to treat it." Many other famous people have been afflicted with mental illness. The list is long. Some have managed to control their disease; others have not. I became interested in working to erase stigma after my son's suicide as a result of his bipolar disorder. I wrote earlier about my conviction that his death might have been avoided had he not been affected by stigma. My … [Read more...]

What is Stigma and How Do We Erase It?

Here's another mental illness resource. The stigma of mental illness could turn deadly if we aren't educated.... A few months ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material he made one request leave out the part about his father's bipolar disorder. In fact he didn't want to see any discussion of any of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family. That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists. Although my husband did not mention our family's mental illness in the history, I openly discussed my grandmother's, uncle's, and mother's mental illness in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (now in paperback and eBook), and that I believe that their genes passed on bipolar disorder to my son. The most important way to erase stigma is to open the conversation about mental illness. This conversation could cover several aspects: What are the causes of … [Read more...]

Book clubs – a way to sell books

Two Tuesdays nights in a row I had the pleasure of being the guest of honor at book club discussions of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living With Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Lucky Press, 2011). Last week we had just a short question and answer discussion about the how I prepared the book and the benefits the writing of it had in my healing process. Only one person asked the questions. Last night in a room full of fifteen or so women, the questions kept flying from each one of them, starting with did I think I left anything out of the book to how do I feel twelve years later as I speak about the loss of my son. Does it still affect me emotionally? We also discussed what stigma is and does it still exist, psychopharmacology versus talk therapy, jails versus hospitals in caring for the mentally ill, and whether or not I think my son's former girlfriend has read my book (I don't think so, but of course I'll never really … [Read more...]

WOW blog tour stop No. 5

Today I'm visiting with Amanda Lebron and her blog Rage against the Washing Machine where I discuss: "Does the Stigma of Mental Illness Still Exist." Amanda is the mother of (in her own words): "a beautiful, vivacious ten year old daughter who has Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, and Asperger's. It is for her that I am on a mission to wash away the stains of mental illness and to soak you in all the knowledge I find along the way. I am here to tell you, you are not alone." I'm so pleased she invited me to help her wash away those stains. Please click on the link so you can see her beating her washing maching with a baseball bat. … [Read more...]

Book progress amidst thoughts about suicide

Well, now I really have my work cut out for me. I have several marked up chapters from my editors so I can complete, complete the first four chapters for sure. I also have final suggestions from my First Reader to combine several chapters -- two into one and three into one. And, right now I think I'm okay about doing that. in fact I know how to do it. So at this point I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can actually see finished chapters on the horizon. I was so worried yesterday that making somce of the suggested changes would be too daunting, but after working through one today I know I'll be okay. Plus it is my book. I can take my editor's notes or leave them. That's the advantage of my being the person with the last red pen. I also think of the suicide crisis we're having because of bullying. In the 11 years since my son Paul's suicide death I think the suicide rate has greatly increased (I plan to include the facts about that at the end of my book). However, … [Read more...]