May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
It’s estimated that one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. All of us know someone who struggles. But despite this, mental health too often remains a topic we don’t discuss until it’s too late.
I’m pleased to have met author Karen Meadows last November who has opened her life and her heart in her compelling memoir, Searching for Normal: The Story of A Girl Gone Too Soon, one of the National Clearinghouse of Families and Youth library selection.
Why did you want to share your story with the world?
I needed to make something positive come out of my daughter’s death. I just couldn’t let scattered ashes be the end of her. While Sadie was alive, we didn’t share much about our mental health struggles. We thought no one else would understand—rather that our sharing would drive people away. A woman I worked with stated this thinking so well. She said “I am afraid to tell people about my mental illness because it might destroy people’s perception of me as normal.” We allowed the stigma to interfere with our finding the community and help that we needed. While I cannot change that, I decided I could share our story now, after Sadie’s suicide, to build awareness of the prevalence and cost of mental illness, to share resources and new developments that provide help and hope to those struggling and to inspire action that increases funding for mental illness services and research. Most importantly, by sharing our story, I hope to help others avoid my daughter’s fate.
What are you most proud of about the impact your memoir is making on the world?
The book is building awareness of mental illness, helping others that are struggling and inspiring improvements in the mental health system. This is best illustrated by feedback I have received:
From a 20+ year-old male relative: “I don’t normally read this type of book but reading it made me realize if someone as bright and full of life as was Sadie, someone coming from a good family, could be struck with mental illness—then it could happen to anyone.”
From a colleague who shared my book with her friend—She told me that after reading the book her friend was in tears saying I may have saved his daughter through my words and that he and his wife feel less alone in coping with things they have a hard time understanding.
Inspiring improvements in the mental health system
From a state government agency manager who is responsible for publically funded youth residential treatment programs—“When I read your comments about the lack of long term outcome data for residential treatment programs, I realized that we don’t have that kind of data for our programs either and should.”
What do you think your daughter would say about your book?
My daughter Sadie had a great deal of empathy for people that struggled. I believe that overall she would have positive things to say about my book because it is helping others that struggled as she did. More specifically, I think she would be:
Proud that that she inspired me to write the book and proud that I included her writing so readers better understand from her own words how her mental illness made her feel.
Proud of me—that I reached way beyond my comfort zone to write a book and to share our story.
A bit embarrassed that I shared intimate details of our story—she would not have wanted people to think poorly of her.
Overall I believe she would be pleased that she and I are making a positive difference in the lives of people struggling as she did.
What resources would you endorse for parents supporting a child that is struggling with depression or bipolar disorder?
I included an annotated list of helpful, credible resources in my book and on my author website. Some offer information (e.g. signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, latest research findings), others offer on-line community (e.g. blogs, connections with others, etc.), some offer support (e.g. crisis lines, chat rooms, etc.).
For more information about Searching for Normal: The Story of A Girl Gone Too Soon, go to http://www.karenmeadowsauthor.com/.
And if you’re in the Portland, Oregon area on May 12th at 7PM, please join Karen and me with two other amazing mom-themed authors at Another Read Through Bookstore.