Mental Health Awareness: Don’t Let it Stop

mental health awareness NAMIAs “Mental Health/Mental Illness Awareness Week” draws to a close, I open with the hope that awareness will continue. It must. We have come so far, but there is a long way to go.

With luck, Ben Behind His Voices will do its part to help spread that awareness. Last week I did a “radio interview blitz” – 20 interviews in a row! – and a frequent question was about why I wrote the book.

I’m going to let Amy Barry, award-winning columnist for “Parent’s Eye View” in Connecticut, answer that question in this excerpt from her recent article, Book Dispels Myths of Mental Illness (click on the title to read full article). Thanks to Amy for asking the right questions, and framing them so beautifully with her own words.

More than a decade ago Congress declared the first week of October Mental Awareness Week to draw attention to the efforts of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), an education and advocacy group that aims to “change hearts, minds, and attitudes” about mental illness on a grassroots, community level.
Sadly, we still have a long way to go in accurately diagnosing, treating, creating empathy for, and reducing fear of those who suffer with mental illnesses, despite the fact that illnesses such as schizophrenia are estimated to strike one in 100 people worldwide.
The recently published “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey From the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope” by Randye Kaye is an intimate, honest, heart-wrenching story of a mother and the son she adores slipping away into the throes of mental illness. (The name Ben is fictitious to protect her son’s privacy).

She says her background as an actress and performer makes her a storyteller and helped her write this book.

“It gave me the capacity to step outside the story and tell it,” she says. “I think we learn best through stories. You can make the point and teach the facts, but if you don’t illustrate it with stories from your life and experience, people can’t connect to it.”
Kaye’s hope is for the story to be gripping and for people to care about “the characters” and also get helpful factual information, which is included as chapter guideposts.
She says she didn’t write the book for herself – she had already spent a lot of time processing the grief of having a child with a mental illness.

“The fantasy that nothing can happen to your kid gets shattered – and it’s a really tough piece of glass to shatter,” she says. “I wrote the book for parents so they wouldn’t feel alone, and I wrote it for providers (therapists, school psychiatrists, social workers), so when they meet them – which is usually at the end of their rope – not to judge them, and to allow the families as much as possible to be part of the recovery. I also wrote it for my son – to increase understanding and reduce stigma for those with mental illness. Until we understand it, we have no idea how much courage it takes (someone like Ben) to get up and have a day.”

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