Dealing with mental illness in the family

Tips for dealing with a loved one's mental illness:

  1. Learn everything you can about the disease through books, the internet and support groups. The more you understand the better equipped you will be to provide help and support.

  2. Make an effort to understand what your loved one feels and treat them with respect and dignity. Let them know that you love them unconditionally - whether they are well or sick.

  3. Your life is important too. Try to keep a balance between caring for your ill relative and enjoying your own life.

  4. Create a network of people who can help your family in a crisis. Another person who has been through this or a concerned friend can provide help when you need it most.

  5. Be prepared for next time. Have telephone numbers of doctors, advice and support handy. Ensure that your loved one has the best possible insurance coverage for psychiatric illness.
About "Approaching Neverland:"

At the age of five, a neighbor's intervention saved Peggy Kennedy and her four older siblings from her mother's well-meaning but misguided attempt to asphyxiate the children and, as her mother saw it, take them with her to Neverland.

Kennedy's childhood was marked by shame, secrecy, and her mother's numerous hospitalizations for acute bipolar disorder. Yet regardless of her mother's transgressions, Kennedy is the first to tell you that she had a wonderful mother.

Peggy Kennedy has much to share about coming to terms with living with a parent's mental illness. And because bipolar disorder is genetic, she understands the added layer of growing up wondering, "Am I next?" But perhaps the most inspiring thing Kennedy has to share is how, when tragedy struck her family-her sister was murdered, her brother died of AIDS, and her father contracted Alzheimer's-her bipolar mother rose as a pillar of strength to help the rest of them survive and even thrive.

According to current epidemiological estimates, mental disorders affect one in every five people and one in every four families. Kennedy's award winning book Approaching Neverland, A memoir of Epic Tragedy & Happily Ever After (iUniverse, 2009) explores in a touching and often humorous way how her mother's mental illness helped to create their family's unbreakable bond with unconditional love at its core.

The story takes place within the larger context of evolving attitudes about mental health, sexual orientation, and the role of women in marriage and the workplace in the 1960's, 70's and 80's.

Approaching Neverland is a recent recipient of the Mom's Choice Award, which honors excellence in family-friendly books and products, and was named a Finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

For more information, visit

>> Buy this book on Amazon: Approaching Neverland: How a Family Handled Mental Illness

Upcoming booksigning:
June 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Books, Inc.
2251 Chestnut Street
Phone: 415-931-3633

Statistics from the National Institute of Health:

  • An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older - about one in four adults - suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.

  • Eventhough mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated in a much smaller proportion, about 6 percent or one in 17, who suffer from a serious mental illness.

    In addition, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for ages 15-44. Many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time.

    Nearly half (45 percent) of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity.

    While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.

    Major depressive disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.

    The median age of onset for bipolar disorders is 25 years.
Related Links:

>> National Institute of Mental Health
>> National Alliance on Mental Illness

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