Jul 11

Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers

Posted by Soliloquy in Adults with disabilities | Mental Illness

The first thing you need to know is that life isn’t over. “The good news,” writes Mrs. Carter in Helping Someone with Mental Illness, “is that with proper diagnosis and treatment, the overwhelming majority of people with mental illness can now lead productive lives.” Based on Mrs. Carter’s twenty-five years of advocacy and the latest data from the Rosalynn Carter Symposia for Mental Illness, her book offers step-by-step information on what to do after the dia… More >>

Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Compassionate Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers

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5 Responses

  • An excellent resource for family members and friends who wish to help a person with mental illness. I especially appreciated the book’s emphasis on biological *and* social risk factors for various forms of mental illness.

    The section on building resiliancy in children at risk for mental illness is reason alone to purchase this book. It is a wise, compassionate, humane treatus on a very important topic.

  • The former First Lady’s book is a very compassionate effort which can help a person who has to deal with mental illness for the first time no matter what the setting. Mrs. Carter gives a good over-view of the “whole picture” concerning all mental illness with enough detail to give the reader a good foundation in the subject. I think the really profound thing that I read in every line of the book was the real sincerity that Mrs. Carter has for her work. She really is serious about changing the way some in society look at individuals with mental illesses. I applaud her for her work and her book.

  • This was one book I did not hesitate to buy as I know so many people with the mental illnesses.

    I must applaud Rosalyn Carter one of the former First Ladies for her help in understanding Mental Illness and for trying her utmost not to see it as a stigma in this twenty first century……but for us to learn that getting help is the priority here.

    From Depression to Panic attacks……Paranoia to Schizophrenia, caregiving with lots of love and understanding can go a long way. Buy this book to assist you if not now, sometime in the Autumn-time when friends and love ones will be taken under that dark umbrella. The treatments for each mental illness is remarkable.Thank you Roslyn Carter with help from Susan K. Golnat for a book that’s going to help millions.

    Congratulations.

    Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 26/10/01)

  • Rosalynn Carter’s new book evokes compassion from the reader as she unfolds her personal experience of becoming aware of persons with mental illness. This affliction has many facets and is painful for the family as well as the patient. Carter leads the reader through various types of mental illness, noting symptoms. The reader may use the book as a reference and not a ‘read for pleasure’ book.

    Carter writes simply and without exaggerating, so she is easy to read and to understand. With the resources listed in index “D”, she equips the uninformed reader to bring understanding in his interaction with his/her co-workers and friends. This is especially important as mentally ill patients need support of those around them. They also need the same financial help that patients with surgical and medical problems receive.

  • Sept. 20, 1998

    Book Review: Rosalynn Carter’s “Helping Someone with Mental Ilness: A Guide For Family, Friends, and Caregivers”, with co-writer Susan Golant. By Valerie MacNeil

    Rosalynn Carter’s recently published book (1998) entitled “Helping Someone with Mental Illness: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Caregivers” can also be very informative for patients interested in self-help. The bright, compassionate former First Lady is extremely informed and experienced in the mental health care field. She has heard an infinite number of stories over the span of her 25+ year career, some despairing and others hopeful, yet all gave her great insight into our suffering. Her educated point of view synthesizes biological and social theories about mental illness as she presents issues concerning intervention, diagnoses, treatment, advocacy, stigma, and even caregiving. Overall, she faithfully promotes “Treatment” with newer medications for people with mental illnesses.

    From the very beginning, she criticizes the most poignant problem relating to mental illness – “The Legacy of Stigma”. She provides many examples of how negative stereotypes about mental illnesses have been depicted by the media for decades, and calls for a change in society’s attitudes toward psychological problems. While discussing legislative changes regarding mental health issues, she introduces statistical facts to support her claim about the wide spectrum of problems faced. For novice readers, descriptions answering the question “What is Mental Illness?” provide basic information about schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders. Most importantly, she states that mental illness is triggered by a combination of one’s inborn vulnerability to a particular condition and environmental stress. This synthesis of the biological and environmental leads to a deeper understanding that combats the simple attitudes toward mental illness we find stigmatizing.

    Carter explains that mental illness is “An Equal Opportunity Problem”, in that it affects children, the elderly , men and women, people of different ethnicities, and the homeless. She also addresses the problem that a mood or personality problem often lurks undetected, like a submarine, beneath an ocean of drug and alcohol abuse, and realizes that it is often difficult to find treatment for dual-diagnoses. She tells stories of people with such problems and explains the warning signs and kind of help available, such as psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and medications. Most importantly, she discusses how common stereotypes of the use of “pills as a crutch”, or as “addictive tranquilizers”, are not based on reality. In fact, they are simply medications for biological disorders.

    In the rest of the book, she discusses a variety of issues. Accomodations necessary for mentally ill people in the workplace, are included among topics. Briefly, she mentions HMO’s, managed care, and legal issues such as power of attorney and trusts. Then, she pays more attention to the science of schizophrenia and how the newer antipsychotics are a revolution in treatment that have proven very helpful. Finally, in Part 3 she discusses interventions and community prevention projects that work, all while stressing that risk factors include biological (genetic) and psychosocial risks, such as extreme poverty. She speaks of the stages of caregiving and advocacy for the mentally ill – issues on which she is very experienced. Overall, her book gives readers an understanding of the various mental illnesses, treatments for them, and much hope for the future.

    Although very informative and inspirational, Carter’s book regards the “Treatment” (with prescription medication), of mental disorders as a dart reaching the bulls-eye of a target – winning the game of “recovery”. She doesn’t consider how “damaged” darts often rebound from the center only to fall to the floor in a losing battle. In other words, “treatments” for mental illness often rebound endlessly in a vicious and despairing cycle. “Hope” improves our aim, but we’re still missing the target!

    The issue of “Hope”, a very strong thread integrating Carter’s work, is concerning. In most cases, narrow-minded professional psychiatrists play upon people’s “hope”, prescribing one medication after another, as if they were the grand dealer in the casino card-game of their patient’s lives. We all know that the odds are low, statistically, that they can win the battle of chance with a miraculous new pill. Yet they continue their war against people’s problems, instead of carefully exploring available alternatives, learned mostly from other cultures, which can be used alone, or in tandem, with smaller doses of medication. It’s disheartening to recognize what treatment with medication has resulted in – merely reporting a “bad day” to a psychiatrist causes an increased dosage of whatever’s new, although everyone has a bad day once in a while. Is this the kind of “treatment” we really want? I “hope” not!

    It’s delighting to read Carter’s explanation of the impact of culture on mental health, since it is so often ignored. The idea that a “delusion” in one society may be the cultural “norm” in another is fascinating. With this in mind, we should consider the Western medical model and its “Treatment” with medication, as only one of many possible culturally-constructed paths, among alternatives, that a mentally ill member may take in our new global marketplace.

    Carter’s correct in saying that the newer medications on the market have less serious side-effects than the older ones, and some may work wonderfully, but this doesn’t hide the fact that prescription drugs can be intolerable. For this reason, wouldn’t it be better for our doctors to have some knowledge about how St. John’s Wort may help depression, and fish oil or vitamin E may ease the symptoms of schizophrenia? There are new facts about herbs, vitamins, and other alternative remedies released everyday, just as much as there are about new medications. Why doesn’t Carter explore them and call for FDA research into these substances? Is she just towing the party line, wedded to western medicine? Also, shouldn’t doctors promote regular exercise, artistic expression, relaxation techniques, freedom from addiction, and open communication about our feelings necessary for us, holistically, to live better-quality lives while accepting, instead of fighting, our mental illnesses?



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