Monthly Archives: December 2011

In David’s name, I fight to restore the integrity of psychiatric patients as I once vowed I would

My son was ill for many, many years and with love and courage, we survived. Whenever I’ve been asked to give a talk on my experiences, I tell my audience;

“If I have managed to change the attitude of even one mental health professional, I feel that I have achieved something. A psychiatrist who listens, really listens to his patient and gives him a modicum of hope, might be able to help.”

My son was picked up by the police a few times. At the same time, I heard from parents in our support group that their children had also had encounters with the police. After hearing their stories, I became convinced that policemen need to be trained in the field of mental health. And this was how I came to be involved in the crisis intervention training program, known as CIT in the United States.

In David’s name, I fight to restore the integrity of psychiatric patients as I once vowed I would.

More in my next blog.  Here’s wishing you all a healthy new year.

If no one can be blamed for causing schizophrenia, why are people ashamed to talk about it?

  • What is it that makes people shy away from talking about mental illness in their families
  • If schizophenia really is  disease tha causes mild to seveere disturbances in thinking, perception and behavior, the resultant stigma is far too severe.
  • Actually severe social disapproval of personal characteristics or beliefs that are against cultural norms. In other words, due to stigma, a person might cross the street to avoid someone becase he dos not understand why that individual is acing diffeerently from the rest of us.
  • Calling someone visually challenged rather than blind, doesn’t change the fact that they can’t see, but, there is a difference between calling someone a lunatic and referring to their illness as an obsessie compulsive disorder.

Our next great discoveries ?


Dr.. Friedland and Dr. Friedman state in the last few pages of their book: We believe the future cure of mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and manic-depressive dosorder (now known as bi-polar disorder) will be one of the next great discoveries.

If so, it will be the very best news I could receive.

I raise my wine glass to every single consumer out there as well as their families.

Now, let us pray.

Not in our street …


I was running a support group together with another mother who had a mentally ill child and two couples told us that plans were being made to build a community center for mentally ill people in our area. They told us that many homeowners in that area made their negative feelings about the idea known. My husband and I were trying hard at that time to get support for the idea of accepting these people into our community. It did not work in many areas but I am pleased to say that today, with the help of ENOSH, the Israel Mental Health Society, things have changed and continue to do so all the time.

  • At this time I was running a support group for parents with mentally ill children and we were all trying to instigate change. Most of us had little knowledge of mental illness and we wanted the professionals to be aware of this.
  • We had a  great need to talk and wished that the mental health professionals would give us the opportunity to do so until we were done.
  • One parent’s daughter had tried to commit suicide and she was called to the hospital to talk to a social worker and a psychologist. This is what she told us at the group afterwards.
  • When I walked into their office, I wanted a glass of water more than anything else as my mouth was parched. Someone asked whether I wanted a drink. I had difficulty speaking. I needed someone to hand me a glass of water and not ask if I wanted it.
  • I wished that they had been more empathetic. My ex-husband and I did not cause our daughter’s illness. Nor were were aware of her planned suicide attempt.
  • I needed them to help me create a safety plan to prevent another suicide attempt.
  • A suicide attempt is more complicated and more intense than anything else I have experienced as a parent. I was deeply wounded, couldn’t make sense of why our child had tried to do this.  I needed all the help I could get. My husband was living with another woman and did not help with our daughter much.
  • I wanted coping tools desperately; lots of them. I did not want our other children to suffer.
  • The last thing that I needed was to hear the social worker say; “Act naturally.” Why? There is nothing natural about having a mentally ill child. It changed everything as far as family dynamics were concerned, so there was no way to act naturally.
  • I needed someone to help my family to find hope again. No one can live without hope.
  • On various occasions when our daughter was present at a session with the social worker and psychologist, they actually spoke over her head. Once I told them; “She is sick, not stupid. Talk to her directly, please.”

At BRAIN in Queens, N.Y. visitors can compare the brains of humans …….

When two of R’s friends became addicted to drugs, she pretended that she was the soul of stability. Even her father, a psychiatrist, did not guess that she was anything but okay. Then, one morning, overwhelmed by the discovery that her parents were planning to get a divorce, she hurled a jug of juice through a window and admitted that she needed hospitalization.

Her diagnosis; depression, and she was 18 years old. Until then, she hadn’t really realized how sad she’d become. “For years I thought I was bad and that my life was a bad one,” she said. She is now almost 30 and a lawyer. “When I was a teenager, I did not have the same perspective that I have now. I was sure that my sad feelings would go away. I didn’t realize that I needed help.”

According to a report released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 16% of Americans, that is almost 35 million people, will suffer from major depression in their lifetime. I would like to add that depression is a mental illness.

About two-thirds of those who suffer from this condition do not get the help that they need. Their condition affects them, as well as those who love them as well as their employers. Employing a depressed person can cost employers $4 a year in lost productivity.

Researchers say that the stigma still associated with the disease prevents most of those afflicted from seeking help.

Now anyone who reads my blogs know why I  go on and on about stigma. To reduce stigma, a new exhibit at the new York Hall of Science in Queens, N.Y. shows people the inner working of the brain, a complicated process which, when it goes wrong, can result in mental illness.

At Brain; the world inside your head, visitors can compare the brains of humans, dogs and dogfish, view neurons from different sections of the brain, and learn how it allows us to accomplish things like staying balanced.

About a third of the exhibit is devoted to mental illness, offering explanations of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and learning disabilities, among others.

“We are trying to raise awareness,” says Dr. John Gillespie, medical director for the depression and anxiety disease-management team at the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which helped underwrite the exhibit.

I learned that healthy people can usually get back into the swing of things after a reasonable period of mourning or adaptation. When a person is clinically depressed, his or her ability to function physically and mentally are impaired for extended periods of several months or longer.

“The most common symptoms of depression are:”

  • A feeling of emptiness, prolonged sadness and fear.
  • Fatigue and lethargy.
  • Lack of interest and pleasure from normal activities, including sexual relatiions.
  • Sleep disorders including waking up early in the morning.
  • Eating disorders that can lead to excessive weight gain or loss.
  • Excessive weeping.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Absent-mindedness, difficulty remembering and making decisions.
  • Fear of the future.
  • Guilt feelings, a sense of helplessness, negative self image.
  • Frequent bouts of irritability.
  • Persistent thoughts of death or suicide; attempted suicide. “

He goes on to say that relatives, friends and workers from the health and social services should be on the alert for the appearance of these symptoms which may signal depression, particularly  in older people. The symptoms vary from one person to another and are often concealed behind a smile.

People who live alone can easily hide feelings of despair or loneliness when someone comes to visit them or they visit a doctor, their spirits can be quickly raised by contact with another person and they manage to suppress the symptoms of depression for an hour or two. But, ignoring the warning signs can be fatal. Serious depression can lead to suicide.

“My father is an M D … ?

For as long as P. could remember, she’d felt embarrassed because her father did not have a profession. All her friends’ fathers worked at one profession or another.

Eventually, while studying at the university, she came up with a solution to her problem.  She told anyone and everyone. “My Dad is an M.D.”

She said this in all honesty because her Dad was a Meat Dealer !        

Psychotic or not psychotic … that is the question.

My son experienced acute stages of psychosis and lost touch with reality. His ability to make sense of thoughts, feelings and external information was seriously affected.

Psychotic illnesses include schizophrenia and bipolar mood disorder. During an episode, people perceive their world differently … what they see, hear and feel, is very real to them, but people close to them are not able to share their experiences.

A person with psychosis, might develop delusions; false beliefs of persecution, guilt or grandeur, or they might experience hallucinations when they see, hear, smell, taste or feel things which are not there. They may be depressed or elated out of all proportion to their life circumstances.

To those around them, these episodes can be threatening and perplexing. People who are not familiar with this behavior find it difficult to understand the fear and confusion with which these people live.

Effective medication and support from medical health professionals and counsellors means that most people who experince a psychotic illness is able to live a productive and rewarding life.

I picked up all this information from books at the Tel Aviv University’s Medical Library, from parents at the support groups we attended, a bit from my son’s psychiatrists and much later from the internet.

I have said this before and it is so amazing that I am repeating it – I often wonder how my husband and I managed to stitch ourselves together after each psychotic episode our David suffered.

Only people with a physical illness receive sympathy, empathy and support.Why?

I read up about psychosis and learned that it is a condition caused by any one of a group of illnesses that are known to, or thought to affect the brain, causing changes in thinking, emotion and behavior. When this happens, and it happened to my son very often, he experienced acute stages of psychosis and lost touch with reality was seriously affected. The diagnos?  Paranoid schizophrenia. During a psychotic episode, David perceived his world differently. What he saw, heard and felt was real to him, but not to us. He developed delusions, false  beliefs which were threatening and perplexing to him.  It took us a while to understand that fear and confusion were his constant companions.

There were patients who received effective medication and support from their medical health professiionals which meant that most indivivuals experiencing a psychotic illness were able to live productive and rewrding lives. But unfortunately, not our son.

If people are unable to see something eternal like a bandage, a cane, a wheelchair, a plaster cast, then the patient looks fine outwardly. but, with mental illness, you can usually see very little when you meet that person. While my son was ill, I had to undergo serious surgery on my shoulders and I received more sympathy after surgery and the six-week-recovery period, than my son did for the many years he was ill. I was given books and flowers, plants, body cream and hand cream and chocolate of course, which is my favorite. But David? Only our immediate family did what we could and gave him gifts, but we could imagine how he must have felt.

TO SUM UP THIS BLOG ENTRY … I repeat; mental illnesses are like heart disease, diabetes, asthma and surgery of any kind. The ‘consumer,’ the person with a mental illness  – would also like to feel that he/she is deserving of empathy; would like to receive a gift from time to time, and, most of all, that individual would like nothing more than to receive weekly phone calls asking how he/she is feeling; or even the suggestion that they meet for a quick cup of coffee. That person is very lonely, is probably without a job and if he/she has family, they are worn out and exhausted, so, think about this and remember that half an hour a week is not much to give to someone in this position. It will lighten up his/her life a bit.

We had friends/neighbors who invited David over for a cup of coffee every single week. I will never forget their kindness.