On October 14, One in Five Minds hosted “A Conversation with Liza Long.” Liza is an author from Boise, Idaho, and the mother of four exceptional children (three boys and one girl), one of whom has a mental illness. Following the Newtown shootings in December 2012, Liza wrote the blog post, ‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation in America. You can read more about Liza here, and follow her here.
During the “Conversation” on October 14, Liza shared her story about raising a child with a mental illness, and what her life was like after her blog post went viral. Much of the negative response to her post was associated with her willingness to speak openly about her family’s struggles with her son’s mental illness. But as Liza expressed, if we’re not willing to talk about it, it perpetuates the stigma associated with children’s mental health. That evening, many people stepped up to share their individual and family stories with Liza and the audience. Clearly, they wanted to talk.
Fortunately, the way we talk about mental illness is changing. In an article in Forbes, Contributor Todd Essig applauded the latest AP Stylebook entry for “mental illness.” As his post notes, the Stylebook “…attempts to make real some of journalism’s stigma-busting potential. It is a good but far from perfect attempt to answer journalistic questions of how to deal with mental illness in a story…” He then lists three improvements the AP should make to help tell help journalists effectively tell the story about mental illness.
What’s your story? Do you have a friend or family member contending with a mental, emotional or behavioral issue? Is it a story you can share that may help someone else? Take the first step. Talk with them about it and agree what can be shared. Learn how to talk about children’s mental health. Become familiar with resources available in your community. Like any good journalist, do your background research, and when you have the opportunity to tell your story, please do. You words could start an important and healing conversation. And please, share your ideas of how to talk about mental health with us.