Category: General Challenges in Mental Illness

What to Do for Peaceful Holidays. Strategies for Getting Happy.

Here are the some methods for getting happy over holidays. This is not all there is. It is a place to start.

 1. Gratitude makes holidays happy. My contention is that being grateful for people, places, and things in your life is a requirement for happy holidays.

2. Find satisfaction somewhere. Often we find immediate gratification in food, drink, or buying. Yet, none of us are really satisfied by those things.  Find what makes you happy now, something that supports you in maintaining happiness.  It may be writing, or communicating with friends who satisfy your heart. People can support you in enriching your life.  Maybe evaluating your life is what you want to do at this time of year. You may be thinking: But what about maintaining the friends who expect me to go out with them, eat or drink with them, smooze with them, buy for them.  What can I do to keep up with all that? You know the answer.

3. Relax. When you relax in one area of your life, you can relax in other areas. Vice versa: when you’re uptight in one area, you’re stressed everywhere. You choose. Relaxing helps you be present to whatever it is you do.  Even a little rest goes a long way. That way your mind is not running all over the place. After relaxing, your mind doesn’t insist that your body run all over the city. If you still need to, then your body will be more ready after relaxing.

4. Sidestep too much temptation. Know what you can handle and what you can’t. If I know there are cookies in the house, you will likely be hungry for them. So remove temptation if you know it is too much for you. That goes for drinking, eating, or doing too much. If you have a problem all year with these things, get professional help.

5. Follow your heart. Start now deciding what you will and won’t do. Remember that stress adds pounds. Give up what doe not work for you. If you love doing something, remember that you want to do it. Otherwise it could devolve into a stressful “job.”

6. Meditate.

7. Delegate.

8. Practice Extreme Self-Care, as author Cheryl Richardson would say. During the holidays, routines change.  Plan now to see to it that you, and your loved ones for whom you’re responsible, don’t get off course. If you or your relative is on nighttime medicine, take the medicine to parties and set an alarm, so you remember.  Most psychotropic medicines are taken in the morning, but there might be other night time medicines. Be vigilant with your health. Don’t let routines be forgotten.  Try not to go to bed late, two nights in a row.  Make a list of what you have let slide in the past, so you find strategies to support yourself and your loved one this year.  Pay attention to your needs.  You could be so distracted that you forget to notice when a cold is starting.  Just make a pact with yourself and let your subconscious support you.  You can tell your mind to wake up at a certain time.  Try it. 

. Get support for you from a friend, or professional, depending on what it is.

10. Barter. Ask a friend who likes to decorate to do your tree and do an exchange. Maybe you’ll clean for her. at another time. Go to a coach who will support you through the season. Consult your inner wisdom and consider what brings you magic.  What makes your heart sing?  Make a list and do what you can and no more. Give up obligation if it is killing your spirit. Know what tires you out. Do what works for you.

11. Give support. Enjoyment comes from simple pleasures, not things as much. You may want to donate money to charities, and/or work at a local charity.  Spread your talents.

12. Connect more deeply.  While doing what enriches your soul, do what encourages connection. Inquire into another’s life and acknowledge their successes.  Just being in the same space with people does not mean connection.

13. Create the magic. Everyone has different interests and talents that can be used during this time. For example, my husband Ed sings and we’re both good with words, so we create funny lyrics to old holiday songs just for our enjoyment. We sing together, though my singing voice is horrid. You can talk to family members about what makes each one happy. If someone likes to cook so you may trade recipes and cook together. You might read poetry to each other. You might find little ways to make each other happy. You can do thoughtful things all year long. This is a good time to practice new acts of kindness.

Holidays can bring magic. Winter holidays all represent sacredness. Hanukkah celebrates the Festival of Lights. Winter Solstice marks nature’s promise for the return of light on the darkest day.  The Christian tradition’s is all about the Son Light born into the world. The symbolic meaning is that our light, our sacredness, yours and ours is reborn.

That’s what I want to leave you with. You ARE the light. The holiday that you celebrate can increase your realization of the light within. Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, do it in JOY.




Part Two: Possible Hassles; Assessing Your Situation

In Part One of these three parts about Holidays, Hassles, and Getting Happy, I asserted that if you can be upbeat all during the holidays, then I salute you. I don’t want anyone to get triggered by these things I am citing here. Most of us find occasional stress, so by naming challenges, you can actually dissipate most of them. It is when we are unaware that makes challenges seem bigger. Knowing what bothers you and knowing you’re not alone, can lower the stress, giving you a chance to circumnavigate the issues. After mentioning some things that get in the way of the holiday season being sane and happy, I’ll be covering some solutions and specific ways to bypass the obstacles. Then, you have a better chance to enjoy the season.

Here are some possible obstacles to holiday happiness:
1. People overload
You’ll likely be with every age person: teens who don’t want to be with family, adults who have different political or religious views, etc. There may be people too many people. Or, it may be people you don’t want to be with.

The holidays are extra difficult for many of us. On the radio a few years back, I heard that 90% of people do not like some aspect of the holidays. One reason people gave was they didn’t want to be with people they don’t like.

With mental illness during the holidays, depending on the type and severity, things can be far more stressful for them, as it can be for you, as a friend, or family member. Realizing that the sufferer gets agitated or upset at holidays does tend to affect you.

Conversely, the opposite of people overload is some people suffer from loneliness during the holidays. That’s another version of the belief that things should be different.

A corollary to loneliness is memories of so called “better” holidays or more ideal holidays that one thinks others are having. Remember your creativity can change that.

2. Doing too much
Life is already very full, then December brings obligations, if you accept them as such. Shopping, mailing, baking, decorating, and partying are some examples. All of these can be wonderful. All of it in a limited amount of time can be stressful.

Even if you don’t have a mentally ill person in your life, someone in your family may not be able to handle a lot of the holiday and you may be wishing she or he could. Notice if your expectations are causing tension.

Another complication is denial. We deny that we, and others, have trouble doing it all. Sometimes people think that their loved one should do things better, or more. Then disappointment reigns. Or, the targeted one may have self-judgment and possibly might take it out on you.

3. Spending money you don’t have
Lots of people go in debt. Children’s toys cost more now then ever. Ditto for adult gifts. Marketing makes expectations higher. When its all over after holidays how are you left? Are you enriched? Or did you spend on wasteful things? What does it do to people to get all sorts of things and those things don’t satisfy for more than three days. The whole process can leave children and adults depressed. It can disconnect us. Parents are rushing around and not connecting with children. Giving instead of being. Are you deeper in your spiritual life? Are you connected to your inner light? Being with loved ones enhances your life and theirs. Often it makes us, and our planet, ill to shop just to shop. I hear horror stories at the gym. People are resentful for all they have to buy, how much things cost and how little they have to show for their money. We’re suffering from what we’ve created. Children actually can get crabby from too many gifts. They get overwhelmed from too much. Look at what is important to you for the holidays. Only you know that. I can’t tell you what that is. Are we buying the product or the way it makes us feel? Parents are often manipulated by the children who are manipulated by the advertisers working for the corporations. And much of what your paying for is the cost of the advertising that had you think you had to buy it in the first place.

4. Less sunlight can affect you.                                                                                                           Given the outer darkness in the northern hemisphere, we’re all a little ‘thrown off’ our game at this time. Depression tends to affect more people during the winter. If you have a friend or family member who suffers, they may seem more problematic to you. They may be doing all they can to keep it going, in whatever capacity they can. Or, if you are a sufferer, life may feel more tense trying to live up to some ideal.

December includes the darkest days of the year, other than January. The shorter daylight leads up to this years solstice on December 21, 2016, though it can vary between Dec 21 – 23. An extreme time of year, it’s a turning point when days get slightly, imperceptibly longer each day. All through ancient times, people recognized the darkest day as a sacred time. They celebrated the coming longer days. The solstice is on the far edge of the most imbalance between day and night. The very thing that people crave, the light, has been staying a slightly shorter time since the summer solstice. We know that in Northern Hemisphere the earth will turn more to the sun each day after solstice. For many of us, that is a big deal. For those living in the northern climates, we look forward to the warmer days. Dark days can be challenging. Cold days can be a struggle, too. It takes courage to take care of yourself, so you’re not affected by that extreme time of year.

The question is: Are you doing all your doing because you love it? Or, are you doing it because you’ll look bad if you don’t? It’s fine to do everything, if you truly enjoy it all.

The next segment is about Getting Happy. I will list strategies to deal with December holidays. Until then, enjoy!

Part One: You’re Not Alone
Most of us have more to do over the holidays than any time of year. If you’re one who loves everything about the holidays, you are among the super lucky. I’m happy for you.

For many of us, there is some, hopefully not all, of that activity that is unwanted. Too often it’s not needed either. In another article, I’ll explore that.

This is not about bah-humbug. It’s about finding what works for you. Each of us is different, with a particular set of values, expectations, and desires that can change at various times for assorted reasons.

If you are one of those feeling a wee bit pushed-pulled, or out-of-sorts, you are not alone. And if you are a woman, you tend to have a bigger role in the work of continuing traditions. That can cause tension which causes a domino effect.

If you feel stressed, imagine how it might be for those that suffer any kind of mental illness. As an author, I advocate for the mentally ill and their families. My expertise comes from being a family member of mentally ill parents. My depressed father became even more serious, more rigid, and more emotionally distant around the holidays. My manic-depressive, schizophrenic mother’s behavior was always more rageful, unpredictable, and bizarre at holiday time. Intensity of symptoms are common this time of year.

At an early age, I knew that winter holidays could be a serious escalation of hell. More on that can be found in my book: Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents.

The purpose of this series of articles is to contribute to holiday peace on earth. Knowing the dark side, I continually strive to make holidays meaningful and enjoyable. Decades ago, I created Rising to The Occasion, a business for creating personalized, joyful celebrations. Also, as a coach, I help people deal with their relationships. You have a relationship to holidays too, even if you do not participate.

Understanding the word ‘holiday’ means ‘holy day,’ I take into account the fact that in December, there are many dozens of different religious and ethnic holy days that need peace in their households, too. So I am writing to everyone who struggles at all this time of year.

Whether or not you, or someone you know, struggles with holidays, this article is for you, especially if you feel a twinge of discontent around winter holidays. These special times can have a fabulous function in our lives. They can be memorable for all the right reasons. And that takes real intention and preparation.

The holiday expectations can be a setup for an emotional drain to a downright disaster. No matter what winter holiday you celebrate, you’ve been sold a particular type of holiday. Whatever you’ve been taught, that celebration is the only ‘right’ one. Right? Depending on your religion, culture or family background, you’ve been taught how it’s supposed to look. And some of you have been taught one tradition at home, and a different one at school.

Many don’t experience what they would like to feel. They can’t “get in the spirit” whether before or during the holidays. And afterwards, many of you wonder why all that work, and all those gifts, produced a feeling of emptiness. For some people, holidays sap their energy, and for some, they are possibly worse off than if there were no holidays.

First thing to do is to notice if there is something missing for you in the current way you celebrate. What lit you up in the past may not do it for you now. See if there is anything you might want to update or uplift about how you honor this time of year. Ask yourself: “What might stir up more joy this season? What can light up my life during the holidays and beyond?”

From your individual perspective, you can be considering how the holidays are for you, and you may be noticing how it is for others in your life. If you have to deal with others over the holidays, it is critical that you prepare for the possible difficult person in your midst. The usual holiday challenges for all of us are harder for the mentally ill. It’s even harder if that difficult person is you.

Think of the song: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year. It can be. Rarely can you count on that. And, it can be the most stressful time of the year. You don’t want to sing that song of stress. It’s as if walking up steep steps everyday, and then holidays come with each step looking like a mountain. That’s how holidays affect some people with physical, as well as emotional challenges. There are people who cannot handle change in routine, so holidays pose a problem. Some of those people work with the public and you have to maneuver around their moods. Do you react negatively, or do you give sufferers some space?

No matter where you are on the stress continuum, remember others could be feeling the same, or worse. In the next article, I will describe obstacles to holiday happiness that you may relate to. Once identified, you can see more clearly what to do about them. Later, I’ll be listing ways to create a peaceful season and a joyful celebration that fits for you.

Despite the fact that people are talking more freely about mental illness as a disease like cancer or heart disease, the stigma is still there. It is hard enough to live with it, but when you have to hide it, everything is worse.


Like cancer, mental illness can kill you. Just notice all those besides Robin Williams who have died from suicide, or drug overdose. Usually, the source of drug overdose is some form of severe mental illness.


Since mental illness is unspoken and unexamined by most, the general public does not know the facts about it. Most of us secretly think mental illness has no effect on us, so why should we care. Often people describe with annoyance the symptoms of family members or acquaintances. They do not know they are complaining about the same symptoms as those with some form of mental illness. It would serve us all to educate ourselves on the topic. Knowing the symptoms could add understanding to those who are suffering, giving them a break. It could also lessen the annoyance of the observers. Once the probable source is known, we can attempt to understand the person, instead of judging them.


The numbers of sufferers are likely higher than you would think. “About 2.4% of people around the world have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime, according to the first comprehensive international figures on the topic. The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4%.”


Another way of understanding the number, instead of percentages is the following. According to NIMH, The National Institute of Mental health: “In 2012, there were an estimated 9.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with SMI (Serious Mental Illness) in the past year. This represented 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults.”


Since there are many people younger than 18 with serious mental illness, that number of 9.6 million is lower than the total number. And that number is just in the US. Think about the world.


If we can be compassionate with Robin Williams, can we be equally compassionate with those in our family or in our neighborhood? Can be compassionate with those in our workplace and in our world?


How do I know about mental illness? I was born to parents with severe mental illness. Witnessing the effects throughout my childhood, it was up front and personal. And in recent years, I have taken supplements to control Seasonal Affective Disorder.


Approximately, there are 95.6% of us who do not suffer with severe mental illness. We cannot know what it is like for those with neurological disorders. We do not even come close to experiencing the kind of pain that the 4.4% feel.


Besides those who suffer severely, there is a larger percentage of the population that suffers some milder form of mental illness. Then add in another percent of us with mentally ill family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. That counts for huge numbers of people. On top of that, count in the unknown numbers of undiagnosed people with neurological disorders.  Is anyone immune to the effects of mental illness in their life?


With all these numbers, it would behoove us rally in the streets for this disease to be addressed more rigorously. More attention to neurological disease is needed in the medical field. As voters, will we demand our elected officials to allocate resources to mental health? Mental health levies often fail because voters don’t see how this issue affects them. In the process of saving a pittance, we lose valuable people. It is not simply through death that we lose people. We lose them through the suffering that kills their spirit when alive. We see it took away a beloved celebrity. Yet, we are blind to the unimaginable, extreme agony Robin Williams endured. He suffered along with 9.6 million adults living just in the US.


Obviously, people who need help are not getting it. What will we do with this knowledge? Who will speak for them? Who will defend them from the ignorant people who blame the victim?


Even with the mental health facilities we do have, we as taxpayers can demand that the mental health departments support those that need it most. The leading research psychiatrist on schizophrenia, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey decries the trend that ignores those with the most painful symptoms. “Torrey has been a fierce opponent of the influence of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. He has also argued that psychiatry should focus only on severe mental illness, conceived as neurological disorders, rather than other mental issues that he viewed as non-medical.”


We all have a responsibility to be aware. This is our world. Until all people have access to effective mental health care, we will continue to lose valuable people to this disease through everyday suicides, through mass murders, through personal vitality, and individual productivity.


Help begins with each one of us. It would be in our national best interest to have compassion for all those suffering mental illness. Can we agree to start there?


We can never replace Robin Williams, or any loved one lost to this disease.  Robin Williams represented joy to us, and he could not have it for himself. Now we can learn from this very public loss and bring understanding and possible action into our lives.  Let us add our voice into a cause that turns silent indifference to genuine support. Since we are interrelated, any positive action for mental health goes a long way  for the welfare of all citizens.



By now the world knows that Robin Williams suffered bi-polar disease, formerly called manic-depression. Mental illness is a neurological disorder. The disease takes a terrible toll on the sufferers, and on those around them. For those of us who do not have it, we cannot grasp fully what it is like.

 For decades, I have known that this actor, and many other celebrities, suffer from bi-polar or other mental illnesses. Whenever I saw him in a movie or in an interview, I marveled at how he could carry on so courageously while he felt so terrible inside. At the same time, I wished that Robin Williams, and all others with mental illness could get adequate help. While he likely was not suffering every minute, he demonstrated many times when he was obsessively funny, even when it was unnecessary. I witnessed the mask of smiles when they were driven by pain.

 So beloved, Robin Williams’ untimely death has deeply grieved the nation. A gift to the world, he used his talent tirelessly and generously for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, he was battling internal challenges much of the time.

 In the midst of national sadness, will we collectively forget about the disease that killed him? Or will we inquire into what can be done to help others that face the same challenges?

If Robin Williams’ desperate cry for freedom from his pain sets off a national dialogue about bi-polar disorder and other neurological problems, his death will make a difference.  He represents millions of people whose neurological diseases plague people throughout the world.

Obviously, if a rich and famous person can suffer so much without proper help, think how difficult it is for the millions of not-so-rich-and-famous to get through life.  Part of the reason that this disease is under-funded and under-valued is that we do not have the collective will to even deal with mental illness.

Each of us needs to be honest with ourselves to see where we are stuck in this mindset that the problem of mental illness is in other people, on the streets, in homeless shelters.  We think the problem is always away from us.  Besides, we think the problem of mental illness cannot be here in front of us, not in our family, not in our neighborhood. We do not see it, or hear it. And if we do see or hear it, we blame the one who suffers. “They should do better.”  “They are losers.” “They are stupid or lazy,” we think to ourselves. “They” are not like us, we want to think. Yet, “they” are us. “They” are us with a brain disorder that they cannot control. And they very often cannot get adequate medical help, as someone with heart disease would expect. Too often sufferers blame themselves for their disorder.

As a society, we have a stigma attached to mental illness. Let’s be honest, it is considered shameful. This stigma remains even though many celebrities have shared their struggles, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Jim Carrey, Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke, Drew Carey, Dick Clark, and hundreds of others.  We do not know what more they would be capable of if they did not have to deal with a neurological disorder.  It is amazing what some people manage to do despite the struggle.

To continue, go to:


For some of us, painful memories stick like glue. These memories impact us so hugely that they crowd out the happy ones. It can appear that there were no positive experiences that we had as a child.


 If that is the case for you, it is healthier to challenge that thinking. If you think there were no happy memories at home, look for the ones outside the home. 


Somewhere, somehow, you were nurtured as a child. It may have been a relative or neighbor. It can seem like an affront to the painful memories to recall any good ones, but keep looking for the warm moments. Even if both parents were monsters, they had some good qualities, no matter how minuscule. Make it OK to invite the pleasant memories to surface.  You can still keep the unhappy ones. Since you survived long enough to read this blog, you were sheltered, clothed, fed and schooled. Therefore, you were nurtured, however poorly it was done. 


While not here to tell you to shut off the bad memories and get all positive, I’m here to say there was painful and pleasant in every life. It is realistic to look at both. If you cannot look at the bad memories and want to see everything wonderful in your past, go for it, as long as you do not openly oppose anyone else’s experience. Despite the awful memories, if you cannot look at the good memories and see only the hurtful ones, you may be doing yourself, and others, a disservice.  


Also, it is easy to forget that it is universally true that no one has all easy, pleasant experiences.  So to expect that we should, is unrealistic.  

To start you off with remembering the pleasant …

Remember a time when you laughed as a child.

Remember a time when you played with a ball.

Remember a time when you proudly wore nice clothing.

Remember a time when you happily conversed with a new friend.

Remember a time when someone did something kind to you.  

Remember a time when you won at a game.


These may seem simple. You may want to discount these small joys. Yet, these memories can dispel the myth that your childhood was all bad. The more you dwell on the happy times, the more you will find balance, no matter how terrible your childhood. To remember the positive does not discount the pain. It is about refocusing your view and recognizing the whole picture. Your foundation does not have to be totally one dimension. Allow yourself the simple pleasure of enjoying the pleasant memories.


For me, I recall bouncing balls against the side of the house. At a young age, it was a delight to catch it and do it again and again. Even chasing after a missed ball was fun. Later, I played baseball, starting at age six with a hard ball. My older brother, the boys in neighborhood and I teamed up every summer to play ball near our home. Holding my own as a girl in that competing world was thrilling. No amount of pain by getting hit with a fast hard ball, ever slowed my enthusiasm. Even though I could hardly stand upright due to respiratory challenges, I ran to bases as needed. That fun was part of what developed my determination and perseverance to get through the rest of my life. Life has its rewards.


How about you? What do you remember?

To introduce my soon-to-be-published book: Breaking Through Concrete: The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents, I am posting the Introduction here. This is a sneak peek. After you read it, I would love to know what you would want to see in this book.


My parents were my concrete. The emotional concrete had set in before I knew it. Growing up, it seemed solid and impossible to break through.

This concrete story is about the hard reality – the details of living with a disorganized schizophrenic, bi-polar mother and a depressed, closet alcoholic father. My experiences can give you glimpses into the hidden world of mental illness in a family.

Throughout my life, neither my mother nor my father approved of anything that I accomplished, not my graduations, my accolades, my choices, or my husband. At every stage of life, I felt unacceptable to them. Looking elsewhere, I discovered that appreciation and approval could come from others.

There is an undeniable downside to a difficult upbringing. Psychiatrists tell us that human frailties are accentuated in a stress-filled, suppressed, under-protected childhood. After experiencing emotional neglect and abuse, a sense of shame can be intensely difficult to release. This type of upbringing most often results in unrelenting emotional baggage such as low self-esteem, frustration, and insecurities. One can think: “If my mother couldn’t love me, then who could?” That thought lurked in the background for me.

While my mother threatened my life at times, not all mentally ill parents are a danger to their children. Some parents with mental illness could have adequate medicine or behavior modification techniques to control their symptoms. In such cases, the family can be functioning well. The risks to any child are on a case-by-case basis.

In no way do I advocate overlooking the serious damage a child can suffer from living with a disturbed mentally ill parent, or parents. While unattended mental illness is the trigger for bad behavior, undeniable damage can be the result.

There are many highly regarded, accurate studies about children’s wounds at the hands of a mentally ill parent. Though there is truth in this view, it is not the only way to look at this, or any other challenge. If only the pain is perceived, the problems are emphasized and nothing else is observed.

Up until now, I have not read anything of the benefit of experiencing such a childhood. After having experienced the difficulties firsthand, I learned that my experiences with mentally ill parents could eventually reveal to me my power. It took me quite awhile to get to that understanding. No matter what my past, I can view it as a burden, or a benefit.

How could there be a benefit? For one, even a severely mentally ill parent has their moments of kindness or clarity. Those soft, tender moments in a typical mother would be taken in stride, appreciated mildly at best. The same kindness received from a dysfunctional parent produces pure bliss. That moment of kindness can affect a child throughout his or her life. My chapter: Giving and Receiving is one such example.

When demonstrations of love are so rare, it could result in a child giving up and becoming cynical about the world. More often, gratitude is automatically there when a child of a mentally ill parent does receive some symbol of love after long, lean times of nothing.

From the hard times, something valuable can emerge; something that takes up residence in your soul. It settles there because you had to labor so hard to chisel through it. That something might be different for each person.

At some point, I recognized that there is a benefit to taking responsibility for my life. To blame anyone else is to cripple, and limit myself. As a child, I made immature responses that had me experience the solid concrete barriers. As an adult, I have more ability to find the cracks in the concrete. If I only see the limits of the concrete and do not look for the cracks to break through, then I will continue to constrain my life.

The concrete made me who I am in the present. Being “between a rock and hard place,” I found the breaks to push through. It took more than one breakthrough.

All concrete has its weak point. When I was a young adult I saw others unhappy due to their childhood. I knew instinctively that I wanted to be free, and to take charge. Others were banging their head against the proverbial concrete of their life story. Being able to see the confining and punishing part of resisting the past was one of the cracks in the concrete that I grew through.

In disclosing raw details, I am not blaming my parents. They were as much sufferers of their illnesses as their children were of them. My purpose in sharing the inner workings of a household in daily crisis is to speak my truth. Hopefully, my story will help you find your truth.


Following the recent loss of several people in the shooting in Tucson, I have heard people blame Jared Loughner’s parents for the shootings. Others say: “He is just no good and he was born that way. He is bad.” At least one well-respected TV commentator called the perpetrator: “ a nut job.”

Some people blame the gun lobby. Everyone has an opinion. Some say he shouldn’t have had a gun that allowed him to shoot more than ten rounds. Ah, I suppose ten people are enough target for one days shooting. Now, who is insane?

Others blame the health care system or the health care workers. Most health care workers need to be commended, and not blamed when things go haywire. Often, tireless and unappreciated mental health care workers strive against all probability to do everything they can.

Does the blame remind you of anything? Does the Virginia Tech shootings come to mind? The exact same arguments came up then.

The leading doctor in the field of schizophrenia, renowned psychiatrist Dr. E. Fuller Torrey blames state governments. Pointing out that the system is not set up to see all the information on a person who is dangerous to themselves or others, Dr. Torrey said: “Ultimately, it is important to hold state officials responsible for not providing sufficient resources to treat those who suffer from serious mental illnesses. For almost two centuries, it has been an accepted function of state government to protect disabled persons and to protect the public from individuals who are potentially dangerous. State governments have been very effective in emptying the hospitals in an effort to save money but remarkably ineffective in providing treatment for seriously mentally ill individuals living in the community. We have completely failed these people.”

While Dr. Torrey makes a worthy point, I think we all need to look at ourselves, too. Our whole society has lacked the will and the commitment to solve this challenge. We feel helpless and want it hidden from our sight. Our country reflects our common values. How much do we value the mental health of all citizens?

It is said that people with mental illness do not commit more crimes than the rest of us. What if, because we handled it, no one with mental illness would commit a crime due to mental illness? That would cut down on crime enormously. Then we would have mass murder committed only by the sane. By any measure, can mass murder be sane?

This tragedy has been happening several times a year here and in many countries. It’s like the movie: Groundhog Day. We are the characters in the movie that keep forgetting what there is to learn from this. The lesson is that we need to get mentally ill people help, even if we don’t know which ones might ever kill. It seems our policy has been that since we cannot know for sure who will kill, we do not need to help any of them. What if we made sure they all got help? While we’re helping them, we would be helping ourselves. Not only would our world be safer, we would have a healthier, even happier, population of former sufferers of mental illness.

In coming months, when the six dead are long buried and the thirteen people wounded recover, we will likely forget. Could this incident in Tucson have been prevented if we all were interested enough?

While we cannot change what happened, how might we prevent the next tragedy? The next time it could be you. I invite you to join me in asking our congress members: “What programs will be put in place for sufferers of schizophrenia, such as Mr. Loughner? What is the state or federal plan that will prevent the next tragedy?” In case you don’t know your local congress members, here is the list of senators and representatives by state district: Please call or write. It is very easy.

If we cannot care enough about the sufferers, then we need to care about ourselves. We live together with the mentally ill, whether we know it or not. We drink the same water and breathe the same air. We see schizophrenics on the street, often homeless. Instead of judging, let us ask ourselves what we can do to make this world work for them, as well as for us. Mental illness is a brain disorder. Mentally ill sufferers are not bad people. Because we do not have a solution to their problems, we wait until some of them do something unacceptable and then we condemn them, often to death. “It is conservatively estimated that 5-10% of death row inmates suffer from serious mental illness.” That huge number might be prevented in the future, if we act today.

While improvements can me made in many areas such as the topic of mental health systems, mental health workers, guns and government programs and priorities, I want to focus away from blame and look at responsibility without fault.

Who is responsible for the sick among us?

We have hospitals for the physically ill. Happily, Rep. Gabrielle Gifford is in rehab, possibly for months. Like thousands of others in our country, most wounded people with medical insurance will be rehabilitated for as long as it takes. There’s no such facility for the mentally ill who are pushed out of a mental hospital in a few weeks, or less, no matter what their mental wounds.

While Jared Loughner does not engender sympathy, we have to acknowledge that he, and others like him, did not get help. I am not defending the shooter. I am pointing to the bigger picture. This message is about more than this one incident. It’s about all the past and future incidents exactly like this, except for the location and the victims involved.

Why do we ignore the needs of the most severely disturbed of the mentally ill? There are no visible scars. We pretend these people are normal. Then we judge them morally wrong when their thinking is totally unbalanced. We justify our scorn. It is understandable and normal to abhor the behavior that disrupts the world in any way. We assume that the mentally ill could manage their life better, or at least as well as we do.

Often, even when we know someone’s behavior is caused by serious mental illness, we still want to deride him or her. They are not like us. We tend to think: “Why do they have to act that way? They shouldn’t be like that.”

According to Dr. Torrey, schizophrenia is at least one mental condition that Jared Loughner has. With severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, some behaviors are downright destructive, some highly dangerous, some merely annoying and some seemingly normal. Often, those suffering some mental illnesses can make it difficult for others to endure their company. For that reason, we naturally stay away. Since we never can be inside their disordered brain, we cannot know if we could control our behavior any better.

Our attitudes may block people getting help. Instead of experiencing shame for an illness they did not choose, what if the mentally ill were respected so much that they had no fear of getting help and they had no loss of self-respect? If they received help early their disease would not be as severe. Most mental illnesses can be successfully treated.

As a whole, it appears that our view of those suffering from mental illness is that they are less worthy than the rest of us. We do not consistently mock people with heart disease or cancer. Our first reaction is concern. Could we have concern for the health of a mentally ill person?

To learn more, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a fact sheet that I included at the end.

The consequence of ignoring another’s suffering was huge and painful this time in Tucson, as it was in Virginia Tech. There have been many tragedies throughout our history, both ancient and recent history and all time in between. So, unless our collective intention becomes compassionate toward the mentally ill, this horrible crime will show up again and again. According to Dr. Phil McGraw, it happens about three times a year. When it does not affect us directly, we go back to forgetfulness.

How responsible for their actions is a person with such a neurological disorder? While I grew up with family members with mental illness, I cannot give a definitive answer to that. Each incident and each person is different. I wish our society had such a support system for mentally ill people that no one would have to ask the question of responsibility. As citizens, we have some say in what goes on. To that extent, we are somehow responsible for the way the systems are run, or not run. We are not to blame. There is opportunity in knowing that we have power.

So, who will demand that mentally ill sufferers get help? I hope you will. How responsible for your world, do you want to be? We can go on blaming others for why things are they way they are, or we can take some action. If everyone took one action to heal this problem, the world would change.

For decades, Dr. E. Torrey Fuller has championed the needs of schizophrenics. Alone Dr. Torrey cannot do it all. I call upon you to keep the funding alive without costing you anything but a stamp.
Dr. Torrey frequently tells people who want to help that they should send a thank you note to Ted and Veda Stanley who fund his work. That is probably the #1 thing people can do to help his research: help preserve his funding.
People who want to thank the Stanley’s for funding Fuller’s research can write
The Stanley Medical Research Institute
5430 Grosvenor Lane, Suite 200
Bethesda, Maryland 20814

If this is too much, please send a Thank You email to the Stanleys about Dr. Torrey’s brain research here:

From there are other ways to help:
“Please acknowledge your local mental health experts and doctors. Encourage them to begin participating in the brain research programs so we can find a cure for schizophrenia faster – this is something you can do today that could change the world for the 20 million+ people around the world suffering from schizophrenia. Support this effort today!
My understanding is that the Stanley Foundation and Dr. Torrey are already working with the organizations that can provide them the brains that are prepared in the way they need for their research. However, other research organizations also need brains for further research. One specific organization I recommend is the “Harvard Brain Bank” – for more information
visit their web site. —

From NAMI’s fact sheet, here are some important facts about mental illness and recovery:
* Mental illnesses are serious medical illnesses. They cannot be overcome through “will power” and are not related to a person’s “character” or intelligence.
* Mental illness falls along a continuum of severity. Even though mental illness is widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion-about 6 percent, or 1 in 17 Americans-who live with a serious mental illness.
* The National Institute of Mental Health reports that One in four adults-approximately 57.7 million Americans-experience a mental health disorder in a given year
* The U.S. Surgeon General reports that 10 percent of children and adolescents in the United States suffer from serious emotional and mental disorders that cause significant functional impairment in their day-to-day lives at home, in school and with peers.
* The World Health Organization has reported that four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the US and other developed countries are mental disorders. By 2020, Major Depressive illness will be the leading cause of disability in the world for women and children.
* Mental illness usually strikes individuals in the prime of their lives, often during adolescence and young adulthood. All ages are susceptible, but the young and the old are especially vulnerable.
* Without treatment the consequences of mental illness for the individual and society are staggering: unnecessary disability, unemployment, substance abuse, homelessness, inappropriate incarceration, suicide and wasted lives; The economic cost of untreated mental illness is more than 100 billion dollars each year in the United States.
* The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have significant reduction of symptoms and improved quality of life with a combination of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments and supports.
* With appropriate effective medication and a wide range of services tailored to their needs, most people who live with serious mental illnesses can significantly reduce the impact of their illness and find a satisfying measure of achievement and independence. A key concept is to develop expertise in developing strategies to manage the illness process.
* Early identification and treatment is of vital importance; By ensuring access to the treatment and recovery supports that are proven effective, recovery is accelerated and the further harm related to the course of illness is minimized.
* Stigma erodes confidence that mental disorders are real, treatable health conditions. We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness to erect attitudinal, structural and financial barriers to effective treatment and recovery. It is time to take these barriers down.

So, besides joining me in questioning the plans of senators and representatives, thanking the Stanley Foundation and educating ourselves about mental illness, I invite you to get involved in local chapters of NAMI. Each of us has a contribution to society as a whole to make it work for everyone.

More about blaming:

To learn more about the Stanley Foundation go to:

Dan Hannemann, my guest on August 24, is an energy worker, counselor, hypnotherapist, entrepreneur, coach and co-author. Dan shared his expertise and experience about Anxiety Disorder

His account of the challenges and the gifts of Anxiety Disorder gave me a whole new perspective on the subject. Besides overcoming many of the difficulties of Anxiety Disorder, Dan is able to support others in overcoming their challenges. On the spur of the moment, Dan outlined a four-step process for any anxiety sufferer to climb his/her way out of anxiety.

Dan Hannemann is a contributor to the book: Wake Up … Live the Life you Love: Living in Abundance. His websites include: and You can find him on his blog radio program

Also, Dan offered a gift to listeners. Check out this interview.

Listen to internet radio with Marifran on Blog Talk Radio

Best-selling author, editor and founder of Conditional Publications, Vrinda Pendred was my guest in August.  Vrinda’s topic was the gift of OCD.   She spoke from the UK.

Delightful and articulate Vrinda Pendred shared her experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  OCD was one of five neurological disorders that Vrinda has dealt with concurrently through her life. You will be amazed at what she has created out of these challenges. Below is the replay.

MP3 File

Vrinda’s book is Check Mates published by Conditional Publications, books by and about people with neurological disorders.  Her sites are: and

There is more about Vrinda and OCD on articles in this site April 26 and April 27.