Sunday, May 24, 2015

Is mental health the only remaining stigma? My mental health heroes (and a free book!)

May is coming to a close, but before it does, I wanted to share some information for Mental Health Month. May is Mental Health Month, designed to promote education and awareness of  mental health issues. Recently, John Nash, the schizophrenic mathematics genius featured in the movie, "A Beautiful Mind," was killed in a car accident, along with his wife, Alicia.

Mental Health is an issue near to my heart. My first novel, "Saint Jude," dealt with a teenager with bipolar disorder, and I have had dear friends struggle with this disorder. I have been amazed and dismayed that, at a time when it seems like nothing is taboo, that mental health still seems to be one of the few, remaining conditions for which it is "acceptable" to stigmatize. Angelina Jolie takes a preventative mastectomy, and she is on the cover of Time. Catherine Zeta-Jones takes a preventative hospital stay to deal with her bipolar disorder, and the response is something more like what you would see in a gossip tabloid.  (Before someone makes a statement that breast cancer is fatal and bipolar disorder is not, please remember that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young adults and teens. I mean no disrespect toward either woman.)

I wanted to share some of my mental health heroes. Some folks who inspire me, and some pieces of information. Read down to the end of the article where you can get a FREE coupon for my novel, "Saint Jude."

In no particular order:

1-- Kay Redfield Jamison
Not only is Dr. Jamison one of the leading experts on manic-depressive illness, but she also has the disorder. Her book "An Unquiet Mind" is a brilliant perspective as a clinician and a  patient.  Here's a clip from a UVA interview... 


2-Vincent Van Gogh
While his artistic temperament seems to be synonymous with the troubled artist stereotype, the bottom line is that he was a troubled, talented man during a time when there were few, if any resources available to help him.

I'm a huge sci-fi (and Dr. Who fan) . One of my all time favorite Dr. Who episodes was "Vincent and the Doctor," where he goes back in time and meets Van Gogh . It does a good job of showing the struggle with mental illness. Even if you're not a sci-fi fan, you'd love this episode. It's all over Netflix and several areas for free viewing I believe. Here's the full episode on You Tube.




3-- George Handel
Handel wrote one of my all time favorite pieces of music, the "Messiah." (which , btw, is actually supposed to be performed at Easter instead of Christmas, which is when many places present it. ) Handel wrote this is a little over two weeks in what was believed by many to be a manic episode

Here is one of my favorite pieces from it - "And He Shall Purify"

4-- Nellie Bly
While Bly did not have a mental disorder (at least, not one that I am aware of). As a reporter in the 1800s, she went undercover in a mental institution to expose the conditions there. It was a breakthrough for investigative journalism. It shed light on many atrocities I will not go into detail here.

5-- Winston Churchill
"Had he been a stable and equable man, he could never have inspired the nation. In 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, a leader of sober judgment might well have concluded that we were finished," wrote Anthony Storr about Churchill's bipolar disorder in Churchill's Black Dog, Kafka's Mice, and Other Phenomena of the Human Mind.
This is by no means, an exhaustive list. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has a list of famous people who had mental illnesses.

And now for the free book.
If you would like to get a copy of my novel "Saint Jude" (which was rated one f the "best 100" books books for teen readers in a guide by librarian Nancy Keane) you can order it on Smashwords. Enter the following code for the coupon before June 6, and when you check out, the book should register as free.

Here is the page for the book: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58667
And the code is: TR27J




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