Tag Archives: Family-to-Family

Schizophrenia, James Holmes, and Hindsight

I think the psychiatry career of  Dr. Lynne Fenton may be over.

Worse than that, she must be questioning whether she could have done anything to prevent the “Batman shootings” in Aurora that killed 12, and wounded many others.

James Holmes: Schizophrenia?

So it leaks out that shooter James Holmes has been in “treatment” for schizophrenia. Big Duh. It was only a matter of time before that was revealed, sadly.

The question, though, is this: what kind of “treatment” was he getting?

According to this PBS Report, and interview withCAROL LEONNIG,  of The Washington Post

Holmes in court

“(New information) shows that James Holmes, the lead and only suspect in this shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., was seeing a psychotherapist or psychiatrist in his university where he was a graduate student. She was a very senior psychotherapy director, basically the medical director for the outpatient clinic for mental health treatment for students.

And she was seeing him for some time before this tragic event…Lynne Fenton is the doctor in the case. Her specialty and what she has been mostly researching is schizophrenia.”

What has yet to be revealed is whether or not Holmes was taking medication for his schizophrenia, and whether he should have been committed to a hospital stay – whether he “wanted to” or not – if there were any signs of this possibility of violence.

Could Treatment Have Prevented the Tragedy?

This leads us to the issue of “Assisted Outpatient Treatment” well-covered by the Treatment Advocacy Center – so I will say no more about that in this post.

But there is also the issue of James Holmes’ family life. Continue reading Schizophrenia, James Holmes, and Hindsight

Diagnosis at last: Grief and Relief

It’s Mental Health Awareness Day, and HealthyPlace.com (host of my Mental Illness In the Family Blog, and lots of great info, encouraged me to do a video post for the “blog party” –

So here it is – one minute about the “moment of truth” when a diagnosis is finally shared. So many emotions.

Stop Stigma Now!: It May Save a Life

create hope celebrate potential disability flower

Last night I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker for the Kennedy Center Inc Annual meeting. The theme was inspiring:

Create Hope, Celebrate Potential.

The Kennedy Center staff does so much to do just that, from educational programs to support services

ben behind his voices
Decorated books! for the centerpieces

like job coaching, to residential programs and more, helping families when hopes and dreams have to be adjusted due to a disability diagnosis – in utero, at birth, because of an accident, or (as in our case) as a child develops.

We cry our tears; then, if we’re lucky and well-guided, we wipe our eyes, pick up the pieces, educate ourselves, find a new community, get some support and new knowledge, and learn to understand our “new normal.”  Then we adjust. And accept. And, eventually, appreciate the joys in this “new normal.”

None of this happens overnight. It takes time (and the “SEARCH” elements I talk about – support, education, acceptance, resilience, communication, and hope/humor) to get to that new place.

And it takes time and patience.

But none of this – none of it – can happen without first addressing the problem of stigma. Especially where mental illness is concerned – because we can’t always bring ourselves to see it, visually or emotionally.

Kenton Robinson of the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board wrote a beautiful, heartfelt piece about his experience with family stigma that almost had tragic results for one of his former 7th grade students:

he says:

Depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are illnesses, just as diabetes or heart disease are illnesses, but they are still viewed by many as the victims’ fault. That stigma makes people ashamed and afraid, and it prevents many from getting the treatment they need.


I responded:

Shame was part of our initial reaction until we learned better, through NAMI (I became a family-to-family educator and trainer) and through hearing stories of others. I wrote our book hoping it might save a family as ours was saved – and, possibly, save a life.

Thank you for a wonderful article!

Diagnosis, Schizophrenia: What Came Next?

Interview on Conn Jackson’ show, Get Connected— he on windy Manhattan (California) Beach, me in a nice warm studio in Manhattan (Big Apple). He asked some great questions, and allowed me to highlight the importance of therapeutic alliance, NAMI, early detection, reduction of stigma, support and education for families, and the importance of love and hope.

Thanks, Conn! Here’s what he had to say about the interview on YouTube:

“Watch as Randye Kaye, author, tells us about her son’s struggle with schizophrenia and how she helped him though it. Why is Randye’s secret advice? Watch and find out!”

A Good Day: Ben Comes Back

Ben is on the phone in the other room right now, talking to his friends and explaining that he hasn’t been able to call because  “I didn’t take my meds and so I was in the hospital for six weeks.” Hey! That’s way more open than he was with the psychiatrist this afternoon. Very interesting. But – he sounds alive. Happy. And I can breathe once again, while my to-do list grows with ideas to try and prevent this last relapse from happening again.

But today – we celebrate. Sure, “what-ifs” can always crowd out the joy, but short of the actions we can take today, and plan for later, there is nothing left but the choice to be grateful. That’s where we are right now, and boy does it feel good. I have never regretted letting happiness win, not once. Whatever else happens – or could happen – we are, and will be, able to handle it somehow. (That’s one of my favorite “momentary mantras”…I have seven of them that will form the heart of my next book, Happier Made Simple) Continue reading A Good Day: Ben Comes Back

NAMI National Convention:Where We Need to Be

Chicago. Ben is still in the hospital back in Connecticut, and I am here – at the NAMI National Convention.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had to make this decision. Six years ago, in 2005, I left Ben to go to St. Louis for another NAMI function, so I could become a state trainer for the Family-to-Family program. Then, as now, I don’t regret my decision. Ben is in good hands (City Hospital staff is wonderful, and Ben is responding – knock wood – to his meds at last) and his sister and brother-in-law are nearby to visit and, well, just to be there.

And, as one speaker reminded us yesterday, Ben has to take care of himself too. I can supply the support, the framework, put the pieces into place – and will continue to do so – but this is Ben’s journey too. And, for now, my best decision is to take care of myself. So, husband Geoff and I hit the road on Wednesday and drove 14 hours to be here.

The right decision. Here, I am surrounded by a couple of thousand of people diagnosed with mental illness (including Jessie Close of BringChange2 Mind),  families of those diagnosed (including newsman Bill Kurtis and journalist Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father’s Journey Through America’s Mental Health Madness) and friends both personal and professional. This is where we all need to be right now – talking about everything from proposed budget cuts for Medicaid (talk about crazy!) to the need for Assisted Outpatient Treatment (the lack of it in Connecticut – one of the only six states without it – is the reason Ben has had his relapse).

We all need to be here. We all need to share, advocate, learn – and, yes, laugh. So much has been done, so much needs to be done. I’ll share more when we get home. Right now there’s a workshop on Supported Housing and I’m on my way.

Mental Illness Recovery: Four Cornerstones

Ben’s recent setback (and, fingers crossed, re-recovery) has cemented, in my mind, the “Four Cornerstones of Recovery”  in Mental Health.  Here I share them in in a short video for HealthyPlace.com’s YouTube Channel.

Attention must be paid to the human being, while making sure the physical balance is maintained by supervising medications.

And for the family? This reminder: education helps. Here, a link to an article about Family-to-Family, and its documented effectiveness:

Support Program Can Help Caregivers Cope with Relative’s Mental Illness

Families and Mental Illness: Listen, please.

I woke up early this morning, grateful to have slept at all. It’s finally Monday, and the main players on Ben’s so-called recovery team are back at work. Maybe – just maybe – I can do something today that will help Ben, repair some small part of the damage that has been done by the recent, blinders-on, money-saving (ha!) way his recent transfer from group living was handled.

The sleepless night came by surprise. After a Fathers’ Day filled with blessed distraction, I found myself with physical exhaustion but a wide-awake brain when my head finally hit the pillow. The body knows. Sleep would not come. Too many thoughts.

one constructive thing...

Today I awake in the family room, where Ben usually sleeps when he spends the night with us. The pillow and blanket are the ones he uses, and they smell of him even though he hasn’t stayed with us much since moving into his new apartment. This scent, I think, is what finally lulled me into the three hours of sleep that came at last.

Ben’s laundry is clean and neatly folded in the corner of the room. That, at least, was something I could do for him yesterday when the treatment world was asleep. In these three days since his relapse I’ve revisited the earlier stages of emotional recovery for families (introduced in Class 1 of NAMI’s Family-to-Family class), as we all do when crisis suddenly rears its ugly head. Crisis, hoping-against-hope, shock, fear, guilt, sadness, anger – and now I must return to acceptance and advocacy in order to make the calls, have the meetings, figure out a way to fix this if I can. Look out. I’m about to pick up the phone. Continue reading Families and Mental Illness: Listen, please.

Family Matters in Mental Illness and Recovery: Sharing

Since this is a new home for the blog I’d previously shared as “No Casseroles for Schizophrenia” on blogspot, Technorati has asked for my verification, so here it is: 295NHGGCAUTX

Meanwhile, thanks again to you: for following, sharing, and caring.  I hope to continue the dialogue for all of us – one in four families – affected by a major mental illness in one of our own: child, spouse, sibling or parent.

Other excellent forums exist as well, such as:

and many more.

I’ll try to keep you posted right here, and hope you’ll do the same. As always, please feel free to follow, subscribe, comment, tweet- and tell others that we’re here, and they are not alone.

If you are going to the NAMI National Conference, stop by and see me on Friday July 8  (Poster Presentation around noon) to say hi – and  for a free bookmark with book info and alsohelpful tips on family matters!



Catherine Zeta-Jones, Charlie Sheen and kicking the shame out of mental illness

According to CNN, “Catherine Zeta-Jones, has checked herself into a mental health facility.
The actress, who has been by Douglas’ side since he was diagnosed with throat cancer last fall, is seeking treatment for bipolar II disorder, her rep confirms to CNN.”

There is an excellent link to an article on bipolar disorder here – and brava for Ms. Zeta-Jones for not only getting help, but for choosing not to keep it a secret.  This takes courage, class – and, I believe, a desire to help others by example.

 As for Charlie Sheen – well, no one can diagnose from afar, but I sure would bet a cup of coffee on the fact that he, too, has bipolar disorder.  Just saying.  And, with acceptance and continued treatment, he could be back on Two and a Half  Men by the fall.  However – the road to acceptance is no short journey. 
Some never make it.  Just read Dr. Xavier Amador’s book, I Am Not Sick I Don’t Need Help, to hear more about why.  He talks about schizophrenia, which is a thought disorder; bipolar is a mood disorder, and that makes for many differences.  With my son Ben’s schizophrenia, there is no moment when his eyes shine with his full personality the way they used to before his illness developed; With bipolar disorder, there is often a precarious period during which the highs seemed tempered by the lows. As I sometimes say to the members of a NAMI Family-to-Family class when I teach about the different illnesses, “at least with bipolar you get to be charming part of the time.”  It gets a laugh – a painful laugh. But still.  Hence, Charlie Sheen’s wonderful timing in comic performances – and his outlandish hubris on his live tour.

However, there are similarities as well in thought vs. mood disorders. Psychosis is psychosis, and it’s hard to diagnose a speeding train.

Britney Spears – remember the shaved head? Recall how her father finally took control and became legal co-conservator? See how well she seems to be doing now? That is so wonderful to see; still, in interviews promoting her latest CD, I see no reference to what really seems like a bout with bipolar disorder.  Is it her family’s right to keep this all private? Absolutely. But I can’t help but imagine how many young people would be helped if Britney were to talk openly about her struggles, and if she was helped by treatment: medication, family involvement, therapy. So many college students suffer from depression and – more importantly – do not seek help because of shame.

Let’s get shame in mental illness out of the closet and kick its butt. Being open about treatment is a great step towards that acceptance.  Wishing Catherine Zeta-Jones and her family lots of love, and the same empathy and applause her husband Michael Douglas got when he publicly dealt with cancer.