An interview with Cheryl Ramsay, about her two sons, one with schizophrenia who is in treatment and one with an undiagnosed mental illness and addiction who avoids the mental health system. Cheryl describes the gradual evolution of two joyous, outgoing, athletic boys into anxiety, abusing marijuana, paranoia, trouble with the law, hearing voices, multiple hospitalizations, and either group home living or homelessness. She describes the deep self-doubt she feels about whether she somehow could have made a difference at each step of the way. She notes, that she and her husband never imagined that mental illness would enter their family and how their thinking has evolved to understanding that mental illness can happen to anyone, even loving, involved, law-abiding parents. She describes NAMI’s (National Alliance on Mental Illness) family to family groups and how they made a huge difference to her in connecting with other families going through the same struggles. The can be found at www.namimaine.org
An interview with Alicia Barnes about her brother Josh Barnes who had schizophrenia. Alicia describes his fear that he had brought in on himself, and how much blame and judgment there is for mental illness. She describes his difficulty with taking medication, and how the medicines impacted his creativity and sense of purpose in writing and playing music. She describes the limits of his care and how he never had access to talk therapy, but only to 20 minute medication checks. She talks about how stigma resulted in his not talking about his illness and how that may ultimately have been lethal for him. She speaks movingly about becoming involved with Bring Change 2 Mind, a group devoted to helping reduce stigma and discrimination for people with mental illnesses.
An interview with psychologist and researcher, Dr. Nancy Kassam-Adams about children’s medical experiences as a source of PTSD. Nancy, gave helpful suggestions for how parents can identify trauma in their kids after painful medical procedures or hospitalizations. She told a story of a child injured in a hit and run car accident, where the parents greatest difficulty had to be coming to terms with an adult who could leave her child, and the child’s biggest fear had to do with waking up alone at night in the hospital. We especially talked about the ways that hospitals are moving to make pediatric care more “trauma informed” (sensitive to the possibility of trauma), working not to separate children from their parents, and measuring the D, E, F’s of care: remember to assess and treat Distress, provide Emotional Support and, to include the Family. Nancy described an innovative program to treat adolescent cancer survivors and their families. Lastly, she offered two resources: www.aftertheinjury.org for parents, and www.healthcaretoolbox.org for professionals.
An interview with Maine’s governor, Paul LePage about his childhood growing up in a home with domestic violence. Governor LePage describes the moment when he decided he had to leave home; the moment when his father tried to pay him to lie to a doctor about the cause of his injuries. He describes living with the fear that pervaded his childhood home, and his attempts to protect his mother from his father’s assaults. LePage then goes on to challenge men to speak up against domestic violence in settings with other men, and to create a culture that has no tolerance for attitudes and behaviors that belittle women. He talks about his vision for new laws in Maine that protect women from batterers and bring abusers to justice.
An interview with researcher, Susan McHale about the impact of gender and culture on how siblings view each other. Susan explores the way that individualistic cultures foster sibling competitiveness and resentment of favoritism. She describes how in some Mexican American families siblings may support the unfair advantage of one successful sibling who then reflects well on them all. She also describes how gender socialization of girls as caregivers is protective to their younger siblings. She cites research that shows how having an older brother is more likely to result in exposure of the younger siblings to risky behaviors as compared to having an older sister. She reiterates the importance of the sibling relationship as a source of longstanding and as yet poorly studied influence on people’s lives. Indeed, one study suggests that adults with positive sibling relationships at age 65 are more likely to be happy and physically healthy.