Losing My Son Broke Me. Telling Our Story Opened The Door To Healing

(1-3-22) I’ve always enjoy promoting books about mental health, including those that I’ve not yet read but pique my interest. This week, I’m posting guest blogs by two authors telling their personal stories.  I’ve asked them to describe why they wrote their books and provide a short excerpt. 

For the Love of Jeremy — A Memoir of a Family Affliction: Mental Illness and Addiction

By Renate LeDuc

Losing my son broke me at the deepest level and something just emanates from your heart and soul when that happens. I was driven to write this book for several reasons.

First and foremost, of course, was my own healing. It is a mother’s instinct to protect her child. If that child dies, it is a mother’s instinct to protect that child’s memory. This book is a part of that process.

For the Love of Jeremy: A Memoir of a Family Affliction: Mental Illness and Addiction is about unspoken truths. It has opened the door to healing my family’s somewhat secretive past of suicide and mental illness. Opening the lines of communication will promote knowledge, awareness, compassion, and progress.

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Lessons About Serious Mental Illnesses That I’ve Learned As A Parent

(1-1-23) I continually get emails from parents who are desperate for help. I am not a psychiatrist, therapist, or a neuroscientist. I am a father. I listen and try to comfort those who I can. Most often, I feel frustrated because helping others successfully navigate our mental health care system is extremely difficult. 

More than a decade ago, I posted a blog about the lessons that I had learned helping my son. I reprint it each year with the hope that it will help others who have discovered that they are on the same rocky road that I have and am traveling.

Happy New Year fellow travelers!

Helping Someone Who Has A Mental Illness: Lessons I’ve Learned

It’s difficult helping someone with a mental illness.

My relationship with my son,  Kevin, has not always been easy. Those of you who have read my book know that I was forced to lie about him threatening me in order to get him taken into a hospital rather than put in jail. During a later break, I called the police and my son was shot twice with a Taser. These events hurt parent-son relationships.

So what have I learned?

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Columnist Writes: “If we’re ever going to stop the suffering … while they’re still breathing, we’re going to have to stop protecting their right to die screaming, scared and usually alone.”

Image by Apollo22 from Pixabay

(12-21-22) While I don’t like to simply reprint articles, my son, Kevin, told me that this recent story in the Sacramento Bee brought him to tears. He believed that he could have ended up like James Mark Rippee if he’d not had strong family support and a fabulous case manager. Of course, Kevin had to accept that he had a serious mental illness before that support system could help him.

While some might cringe reading about this tragedy so near to Christmas, I feel the opposite. What better time to remind ourselves of the sentiments found in Matthew 25:40.

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

(Thrilled to see that advocate Teresa Pasquini is quoted in this article.)

We’ let blind, mentally ill, homeless Mark Rippee die in Vacaville. But let’s name names


James Mark Rippee, who was blind, severely mentally ill, homeless — and unhelped, despite all the years that his sisters spent trying to change that — died on Tuesday at age 59.

You could say, as doctors at Fairfield North Bay Medical Center did, that he died of multiple organ failure after an untreated urinary tract infection caused sepsis.

Or you could say that the cause was really the 1987 motorcycle accident that took his sight and part of his frontal lobe more than half a lifetime ago, when he was 24.Over the next few years, his brain injury robbed him of his sanity and safety, too.

You could consider some corner of accountability for the entrepreneur who had lately been charging him $600 a month to let him sleep in his backyard, along with other homeless people, though no one knows who left Mark at a Vacaville ER unable to breathe at 2:30 on Saturday morning, long after he should have received medical care.

Or you could say that he died because we just didn’t care enough whether he kept on living.

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Sen. Cassidy Becomes Emotional Explaining Why He Cares Deeply About Mental Health Reforms

Sen. Bill Cassidy advocating for mental health reforms

(12-19-22) I got to know Sen. Bill Cassidy (R. La.) in 2016 when he joined with Sen. Chris Murphy (D. Conn.) in passing the most significant mental health legislation in decades – the Mental Health Reform Act. 

Because of his work on that crucial bill, I knew he cared deeply about improving our  mental health care system. I became more convinced after he invited me to Louisiana to deliver a keynote speech during a one day mental health care summit. We were able to have dinner together that night.

What I didn’t know was that his passion comes from a deeply personal loss. He became emotional during a recent interview with CNN and shared his story when asked about how mental illnesses impact families.

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Dr. E. Fuller Torrey Continues To Impact New York’s AOT Laws – Blasted by Critics, Adored By Parents, Always Pushing The Envelope

Dr. E. Fuller Torrey

(12-15-2022) A few weeks ago, New York Times Reporter Ellen Barry sent me an email asking if I would confirm some of the many stories that she had heard about Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. I was happy to oblige. She published her report this week and it has generated more than a 1,000 comments – which is not surprising given how controversial and influential Dr. Torrey has been pushing states to adopt Assisted Outpatient Treatment. What’s your view?

Behind New York City’s Shift on Mental Health, a Solitary Quest

The psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey has been advocating tougher involuntary psychiatric treatment policies for 40 years. Now it’s paying off.

BETHESDA, Md. — The psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey is 85 years old and has Parkinson’s disease, the tremors at times so strong that his hand beats like a drum on the table.

Still, every morning when he reads the newspapers, he looks for accounts of violent behavior by people with severe mental illness, to add to an archive he has maintained since the 1980s.

His records include reports of people who, in the grip of psychosis, assaulted political figures or pushed strangers into the path of subway trains; parents who, while delusional, killed their children by smothering, drowning or beating them; adult children who, while off medication, killed their parents with swords, axes or hammers.

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After She Gave Birth: Rage, Paranoia Arrived. Jessica Ekhoff Writes About Mental Health Challenges Facing New Mothers

(12-12-22) What causes mental illnesses to surface and interrupt our lives?

Jessica Ekhoff writes in her new book, Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania, about her experiences after giving birth to her first child. This is a topic that I wish would get more attention.

A scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health once suggested that I imagine an electrical cord. It works fine until one day when it causes a fire because part of the sheath covering its wires was thinner than the rest of the cord and sparks broke through. This is what happens with a serious mental illness, he explained. Whether or not you accept this theory, it helped me understand why my son, Kevin, had his break when he was in his early 20s after an uneventful childhood.

We know that stress is a trigger and giving birth certainly can be stressful.

Guest Blog by Jessica Ekhoff, author of Super Sad Unicorn: A Memoir of Mania.

Before I had my son, Wells, in February 2021, I read every book about pregnancy and early parenthood I could get my hands on. I thought I was fully prepared to handle anything I might face in the postpartum period. But nothing prepared me for what ultimately happened.

Within a few days of having my son, I began experiencing a slew of bizarre and unexpected symptoms. I became paranoid that my husband, Dane, was trying to have DCFS take Wells away from me. I went through bouts of rage so intense that I blacked out afterward. My thoughts were so confused and disjointed that I started having trouble speaking, and I felt like I never needed to sleep.

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