Tag Archives: mental health and community

Crisis Intervention Team Training Makes a Huge Difference

Officer Newkirchen, Deputy Chief Lyddy, Captain Smith

Early this month I attended the annual speaker meeting of NAMI Fairfield, a very strong affiliate in Connecticut.  Our guests? Members of the local police force, one of its eight officers trained so far (as of the end of this month) for the CIT (Crisis Intervention Team).

 

Here a few things I learned:

 

  1. All Police Academy graduates have had some training in Crisis Intervention. The CIT-trained officers, however, are have advanced knowledge and skills. Kind of like getting the heart specialist instead of the general practice doctor.
  2. Police Officers really do care, and want to prevent crime rather than have to make arrests after the fact. Continue reading Crisis Intervention Team Training Makes a Huge Difference

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The Miracle of Ordinary

“When you’ve lost wshuthe miracle of ordinary, and you get it back, you never forget to be grateful…to say, This is a really good day.”

Those are the last thoughts expressed in my recent interview with Mark Herz on WSHU, a Connecticut affiliate of NPR. Listen to the WSHU/NPR interview here ( 4 minutes)

Yes, ordinary can be miraculous. Cooking a dinner together. Driving your child to work. Nagging you son to finish his Shakespeare essay, when only three months ago he was wandering the floor of a psychiatric unit, unable to focus on conversation for more than a moment.

Ben Behind His Voices
BBHV sighting: Barnes & Noble, Norwalk CT, Psychology face-out next to Jung!

Our tendency as adaptable beings is to adjust to new situations so quickly that we may forget to notice the joys.  Like that first night when you can actually breathe through your nose again after a cold…or the moment the fridge hummed back to life after the power blackout. The first time you see your memoir displayed at the bookstore. Pure joy! But days or hours later we shift our gaze to the next hurdles and may forget to be happy. It only takes a moment to step back and reignite appreciation. I want to remember to do that more often.

Awareness.  And especially this week, which is designated as “Mental Illness Awareness Week.” Not just mental illness, but mental health. As I look back on the book launch party on Sept. 20th, the miracle of Ben’s attendance at the event, and the support he chose to show, is indeed miraculous to me.  As the next events unfold (more interviews, upcoming appearances – see the news/events page) I hope that while Ben Behind His Voices does spread awareness about mental illness, it will also spread the messages of understanding, respect, hope, and the value of a therapeutic alliance between families, patients and healthcare providers.

And I hope I never forget to value the precious good days that are beautifully ordinary – and that the book helps reignite that spark in its readers.

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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

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Focus on Hope: Can We Stop the Revolving Door?

Baby Croc Toy
My Talisman for the Past 5 Weeks

Tomorrow we finally have the discharge meeting. Ben is, at last, responding to his meds and is well enough to have completely clobbered me and my husband Geoff in a game of 500 Rummy last night.  Time to think about next steps.

It has now been 5 weeks since his relapse. I have no idea what will happen in tomorrow’s meeting, but I know this: Ben, of course, wants to return to his independent apartment,  scene of the aforementioned relapse.  There are pitifully few other options right now. If this is currently the only choice, I will not leave that meeting until some clear plans have been set in place to safeguard Ben’s recovery. Will keep you posted.

Last night I visited Ben with an orthopedic boot on my ankle. Cat bite. Long ridiculous story. I will recover, but right now can barely walk. I limp so slowly that I couldn’t use the hospital’s automatic revolving door (too fast).  Let’s hope Ben never uses it again either.  That’s what we are working towards.  How to combine greatly reduced outpatient support with the goal to stay on meds, in a program, and  out of the hospital?

That said, I now want to bestow an award: Employer of the year goes to Ben’s employer. The support they have given us during this difficult time has been exemplary. They have signed and sent a “get well” card to Ben.  They sent him gifts: a company T-shirt, the little toy in the pic above.  I keep the toy in my office for now (things can disappear in the hospital), and will give it to Ben upon his release.  This stuffed crocodile has reminded me that I’m not the only one pulling for Ben’s recovery, not the only one who cares.  So I added the post-it-note you see in the picture: “Recovery is Always Possible.” It has cheered and encouraged me over the past few weeks, and reminded me that Ben is – and always will be – in there behind the voices waiting to come back to us.

I’m so grateful that, once again, he has. And now we see what tomorrow’s meeting brings. I may bring the crocodile with me for moral support.

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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.

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Relapse: The Monster Under the Bed

…and it has come out once again. After six years of progress, Ben is back in the hospital again. Insert four-letter words here.

I knew it.  Involved families always know it.

Wednesday, after a voice-over session- late in the afternoon – I retrieve two messages from Ben’s caseworker. First message: “Ben
forgot to show up for meds this morning. ” (and why did he wait until 4 PM to tell me?) Second message: “I just spoke to Ben. He says he forgot and he will come early for his evening meds.”

Sure he will. I finish my job and drive over to Ben’s neighborhood and the office of his agency. I check all his favorite hangouts – diners, mostly. No sign of Ben.  I drive past his apartment – bathroom light on, no changes an hour later.  I go and wait at the agency. No Ben. I call my husband and we wait together. 11:30 PM. No Ben. I have called his cell phone about 100 times today. Straight to voice mail.

This is not good.

They tell me:  “There’s nothing we can do until tomorrow.”

My husband offers to drive around the streets in case Ben is wandering somewhere. That’s what happened last time he went off his meds, six years ago. Six years since we last went through this, and it suddenly feels like only last week.

“No”,  I tell him. “Let’s go home. There is no point. We need sleep.”

The next morning, I call Ben and he – unbelievably -answers the phone at last.  Says he’s on his way to take his meds and go to work. He sounds OK, for the few moments we speak. Maybe we caught it in time, I think.  I do not hear from his agency so assume Ben did arrive for for meds, did go to work. Continue reading Relapse: The Monster Under the Bed

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Schizophrenia and Family: Walking the Tightrope of Recovery

Recovery in mental illness is possible, yes – but is often a tightrope walk for all involved: consumers, family, friends, providers.  To paraphrase Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, “Respect must be paid.”

This is an excerpt from today’s radio interview with Ray Andrewsen of WQUN AM in Hamden, CT, where he asks me about our family experience as schizophrenia developed in my son Ben.

Next Thursday, June 9, I’m honored to be the keynote speaker for Fellowship Place in New Haven, CT, one of many organizations providing much-needed support and community for those with mental illness. .

Eighth Annual Doctor Albert J. Solnit Memorial Lecture

Advance ticket purchase is required. Tickets are $25.00 each. To purchase tickets, please click on the link on the left or call Melissa Holroyd at 203-401-4227 x111. All proceeds to benefit housing and support services to adults who suffer from chronic mental illness.

more info: Hope to see you there if you can make it!

Fellowship Place to host our 8th Annual Dr. Albert J. Solnit Memorial Lecture: a discussion with  Author Randye Kaye, Thursday June 9, 2011 at 7:00pm, at the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium of Yale University, 53 Wall Street, New Haven.
Join us for a conversation with Randye Kaye, based on her book “Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”, to be published by Rowman and Littlefield in September 2011.  Kaye will share with the audience her experiences with her son who suffers from schizophrenia, how mental Illness affects the whole family and how they helped guide him on his recovery journey as he went from 7 hospitalizations to now 4 semesters on the Deans List at his school.
Kaye humanizes the experience of schizophrenia by including Ben’s point of view, through his poetry and other writings, and pays tribute to the courage of anyone who suffers with mental illness
Following the Author’s presentation, Fellowship will host a panel discussion with the audience and a coffee reception. The Panel will include:

  • Daniel M. Koenigsberg, MD, Former Chairman, Dept. of Psychiatry, Hospital of St. Raphael, Associate Clinical Professor, Yale Medical School
  • Selby Jacobs MD, MPH, Former Medical Director, CT Mental Health Center, Professor of Psychiatry, Yale Medical School
  • Allan Atherton: Treasurer, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Elm City, Past President NAMI/CT, Co-Coordinator, NAMI CT Sharing Hope Initiative
  • Randye Kaye, Author: ”Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope”, NAMI Family-to-Family educator, Radio broadcaster: NPR.

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Independent Living and Mental Illness: How Much, How Soon?

When a hug could fix everything…

I’ve spent a good part of this afternoon yelling at the people who are supposed to be supporting my son as he completes his first two weeks in “supported independent living.” This was determined to be the next logical step after doing so well in his group home – that’s what they told me, anyway.

Yeah. sure. Where is the support? In these two weeks, he has become isolated when not at work, has clearly (to us) somehow cheecked his meds twice, and has “forgotten” to show up for morning meds once.  He also missed an appointment with his caseworker. This, too, he “forgot”  – and they caseworker let it slide. After the initial move-in rush, Ben has not finished unpacking. I’ll bet there are roaches crawling over unwashed dishes in his sink.  I hope not, but let’s just say I have concerns.

Why? Well, it could be the stress of too much change too soon. After seven years in Harrison House – where he had 24/7 staffing, 7 housemates, required chores and meetings, and someone to be accountable to – Ben now is expected to live alone, and “take responsibility.”  Except for showing up twice a day to take meds, he is left to his own schedule, his own decisions, his own life. Ben has lost his community, his sense of purpose, his structure and his parental figures.  All without gradual steps. It’s like they threw him down a flight of stairs and said good luck.
And, oh sure, we’ll take you to the hospital if you break a leg. But we won’t bother cushioning your fall or providing a handrail.

Add to that the fact that Ben’s school semester ended during this time, he no longer has required meetings to go to, and he has no one to play cards with, say good morning to, watch Iron Chef with. Yeah, he said he hated Harrison House and couldn’t wait to get out – but even the things he did to get away from there (extra NA or AA meetings, community Clubhouse, nights spent with his family) were good for him. If not for his job, he’d he alone all the time. And that is not good for anyone.

On June 9th, I’ll be the keynote speaker at Fellowship Place in New Haven CT, where they provide community to those like Ben who so desperately need it – and cannot get it elsewhere. I wish Ben lived near their program. If he would go. Things we’re required to do sometimes help us the most.

Several calls to the office later, I have spoken to every possible staff member about Ben’s tricks for not keeping his meds in his system. If they have to tattoo it on his arm, I don’t care. Watch him taking the meds – every second – and make sure he sits afterward according to doctor’s orders. No bathroom, no cigarette breaks. Come on! How hard is that? Why doesn’t every per diem staff member have access to that info?
But – more than that – where is the plan they promised to make this transition easier?  When I asked his caseworker, I got this response: “Well, we do a plan after 30 days, after we get to know him.”

Really? When and how do you plan to know him? Do you know how a kid can fall through the cracks in 30 days? How will you know if he’s isolating himself?

Will it be too late when you finally notice him?

Quote from the Fellowship Place website: “It is possible to overcome the effects of severe mental illness and move from homelessness, poverty, and despair to a life of hope and self-sufficiency”

Yes- with love, a good plan, a sense of purpose, and the right meds. What if I were not there to step in? What about the people whose families have given up?

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Spreading Hope: Speaking and Submitting 28UFDXR7Y75H

My potential book publicist just described Ben Behind His Voices, and its message within, as “a beacon of hope” for those who are going through any similar challenge with a disability in a loved one. I hope so. Oh, do I hope so. That is my dream for this memoir, and for this blog: to spread hope, to reduce stigma, to open dialogues, to increase understanding and respect for those with mental illness and for their families.

I’ve submitted this blog to Technorati so that others can find it. To do that, I must include the code here: 28UFDXR7Y75H.  (It’s in the title too – just in case)

Meanwhile, on June 9th, I will be the keynote speaker for Fellowship Place in New Haven, Connecticut.  Fellowship Place is a shining example of how important community is to those in the mental illness recovery process. NAMI reminds us that essentials for recovery include, among other elements:

  • a safe and stable environment
  • an educated, supportive family
  • something to get involved in: work, community, advocacy
  • sustaining hope and a vision of what is possible.

My Ben would not be where he is without his community – his job coach, caseworkers, house supervisors, doctors, family a friends. It takes a mental health village.  Kudos to all who serving as a beacon of hope, and to all who are absorbing it all so they too may someday advocate as well.

Fellowship Place Community

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Faith Leaders: How Can You Help Your Congregants?

Did you know that, according to Mental Health Ministries,

“Surveys show that sixty percent of Americans seeking help with mental health issues turn first to ministers, priests and rabbis. This is twice as many as those who went first to a psychiatrist, psychologist or family physician.”

Wow! Not only that, but not all of these leaders are adequately prepared with the information to provide the help that’s needed. Here’s a link to wonderful resource you can download:

http://mentalhealthministries.net/links_resources/study_guide.html

This is full of lots of wonderful information. I guarantee it will set you on a realistic path toward being of real help to your members who are so in need of your support when mental illness comes into their family.

Thanks for all you do!

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