Efforts at improving mental illness literacy in Canada and the U.S. have been hampered by a problematic notion that education about biological aspects of mental illnesses will lead to greater stigmatizing of people with these disorders.
Author, After Her Brain Broke: Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity
Susan Inman's memoir, After Her Brain Broke, Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity (Bridgeross, 2010), has been recommended both by NAMI and by EUFAMI, which are the world's largest organizations advocating for families coping with mental illnesses. In Canada, it has also been recommended by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, and the BC Schizophrenia Society. Susan's articles about mental illness have appeared in a variety of publications including the National Post, the Globe and Mail, The Province, The Tyee, the BC Teacher Newsmagazine, and Visions magazine. While a member of Vancouver Coastal Health’s Family Advisory Committee in 2006, Susan drew up plans for a family conference focusing on meeting the needs of family caregivers for people living with severe mental illnesses; she helped organize this well-attended conference for the next 11 years. More recently, Susan initiated and co-chaired the Bringing Cognitive Remediation to British Columbia conference; efforts are continuing to implement the evidence-based cognitive remediation programs which can help the many people with schizophrenia who have disabling cognitive losses associated with the illness. While continuing to provide ongoing assistance to her daughter, who is recovering from a severe schizoaffective disorder, Susan is a very active public speaker about the situations of families coping with psychotic disorders. Susan received her BA from Swarthmore College, her MA from UCLA, and taught secondary school in Vancouver for 25 years.
The VPD reports that 1 in 5 of the calls they respond to involve mental illness. Among the five recommendations that could reduce this inappropriate police involvement is the development an urgent care centre in Vancouver that will be staffed by psychiatrists. Anyone who has waited many hours in a crowded ER with a very psychotic person knows that this makes sense.
10/03/2013 05:27 EDT
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has released its new guidelines for involving families in the mental health system. Since family caregivers for people with psychotic disorders often supply the majority of mental health support, these efforts to create a more family friendly mental health system represent a huge step forward.
07/29/2013 05:42 EDT
When people may be having a hard time differentiating between what's real and what's not real, encouraging people to focus on the voices they hear can be very poor advice. The "hearing voices" movement can undermine people's trust in medical help that might be crucial to their wellbeing.
06/06/2013 10:32 EDT
This is Prevention Week, part of Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. Too bad that the policies promoted by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), make it more likely that people with the most severe psychotic disorders -- schizophrenia and bipolar disorder -- will remain ill.
05/13/2013 12:13 EDT
When people suffering from mental illness receive intensive treatment in programs specifically designed for them, most of them do much better. Anti-psychotic medications are understood to provide the foundation upon which any other treatments can be added. These messages are in direct conflict with the message from journalist Robert Whitaker. Robert Whitaker does excellent work describing the egregious practices of the pharmaceutical industries. However, his extreme stance against the value of psychotropic medications is scary. Any parents of a psychotic son or daughter who heard his recent presentation in Vancouver would want to keep their child far away from the early psychosis intervention programs that offer the best hope for recovery.
03/12/2013 12:06 EDT
Advertisements and billboards around Canada are encouraging us to discuss mental health problems as part of Bell's "Let's Talk" campaign on Feb. 12. However, those of us who wish Canadians could finally receive much needed public education about psychotic disorders are disappointed. Canada is fortunate to have quite a few early psychosis intervention programs. But given the poor state of knowledge about both the early signs and the existence of programs, too many families aren't getting the knowledge they need. These are major public health problems. Let's talk about them.
02/12/2013 12:26 EST
Since my daughter experienced her first psychotic break while still a young teenager, she missed the kinds of gradual steps others get to take in developing work skills. Fortunately for her, Vancouver has an agency focused on helping people living with mental illnesses. But its funding might be cut back.
01/28/2013 12:15 EST
As National Family Caregivers month comes to a close, some caregivers have reason to celebrate as their concerns are receiving more attention than ever before. However, it's a precarious time for some of us. The organization that families caring for people with severe psychotic disorders had created has somehow slipped away from us.
11/30/2012 11:17 EST
What's it like to be psychotic and unable to distinguish what's real from what's not real? How do people try to restore a family member to their sanity? Or cope with a severely ill person when there seems to be no way out?
11/06/2012 01:59 EST
Now that Mental Illness Awareness Week is over for another year, how many of you learned about the early warning signs of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder? Since over 3 per cent of the population will develop these disorders, usually in adolescence or young adulthood, it's useful information. Parents who don't understand the strange behaviours that accompany psychosis are completely disempowered.
10/08/2012 12:04 EDT
Current anti-stigma campaigns emphasize that most people with mental illnesses aren't violent. This is very true. They also point out that people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Also true. But the research is clear that people with untreated psychosis are a greater danger to themselves and others than people who aren't psychotic. People with untreated psychotic disorders have a higher rate of violence than do the general population.
08/14/2012 08:04 EDT
The annual convention of the U.S.-based National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) just finished educating its 1700 participants on the latest research relevant for people living with severe mental illnesses.And what's the situation in Canada? Families here certainly aren't being led to advocate for the most helpful education programs for people living with psychotic disorders.
07/05/2012 07:36 EDT
It's ironic that at a mental health conference regarding anti-stigmatization, there should be a group of panelists who offer the most stigmatizing collection of ideas about families coping with mental illness. What's most distressing is that they advocate the cessation of the use of medicine and family support.
06/05/2012 07:53 EDT
Even though Schizophrenia Awareness Day is limited to May 24th, Canadians are exposed to education about schizophrenia all year long. Every time they read a gruesome news article about it, or have a difficult encounter with someone with an untreated psychosis, they receive confusing knowledge. It creates the kind of image of severe mental illnesses that crusaders against stigma would like them to forget.
05/24/2012 08:31 EDT
A mentally ill young woman, who thrived on medication and crumbled without, lobbied to be removed from mandatory treatment -- she didn't like being medicated. Her parents were very surprised when they learned that, after a year of stability, her community mental health team had decided, without consulting them, to release their daughter from mandatory treatment.
05/15/2012 01:59 EDT
Unfortunately, the beliefs of the "psychiatric survivor" movement are having increasing influence on peer support workers. Last month my daughter participated in a program offered and was told by the peer leader that they were all there because of the trauma and abuse they had experienced as children.
05/02/2012 09:47 EDT
As the parent of someone with a severe schizoaffective disorder, I'm used to being viewed with suspicion. Even with recent decades of robust research in neuroscience, parental caregivers soon learn that their interactions with the mental health system will be filled with blame.
04/12/2012 09:35 EDT
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