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Mental Illness- Through Eyes Of Those Affected

Education for Parents & Educators Regarding Mental Illness

Stories & Advice From Those Who Know
Kid's Zone
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What Parents Should Look For If You Suspect Mental Illness In Your Child
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NEW** Changes in the IDEA 2004 Statute: Guidance from OSEP

Understand Depression & How to Treat It at

Assistance For Caregivers

The All I Need- Help for Parents To assist with Early Detection

Families On The Brink: The Impact of Ignoring Children With Mental Illness

I have spent nearly my entire life as a caregiver for mentally ill people, in my life.  From my Mother, Sister, Uncle, to my children --  I myself suffer depression if I fail to take my daily dose of antidepressant.
Children suffer some of the most horrific experiences of all, especially in school.  Other ("normal") children are cruel ( understatement) and educators are so over run with responsibilities, low staff and fewer and fewer resources, that it's nearly impossible for them to have time to handle ALL of these issues.
I have found, however, that the caregivers, that are willing and able to do everything they can do, will be heard and they will get what is needed.
I will provide my personal story on this web site and I hope it will be used as an example as to what children experience and what is needed to help caregivers help you, as educators.
Here, I will provide you with all the information I can possibly provide to help you, help our kids.
I strongly suggest that parents, caregivers and educators gather at least monthly, as a community, to bring awareness to one another, spread news about studies, medications and all of the other things that need to be presented.
I believe also that it would be wonderful to bring speakers into the student population to make students aware of how they affect other students in their school when they deliberately hurt others and they have no idea what they may be experiencing.  "Normal" children need to be reminded that NO ONE is immuned and they themselves could one day be one of these very people, as a young person, or as an adult, that could suffer mental illness.
As well, information should be provided to students about mental illness and the possibilities that some may be suffering mental illness and not even understand it until someone places information regarding symptoms in their hands. We need to make ALL children proactive in understanding what may be happening to them and what they, personally can do, how they can talk to their parents and get the help they need.
It could be that something just that small, could be what may save a child's life, or make their life exactly what they, themselves, would like it to be.
One in four families are affected by mental illness.  The stigma MUST be removed.  It's nothing to be ashamed of, the shame lies in looking away from it and denying it exsists.
I have a child that has a triple diagnosis.  I don't think ANY of you want to live in his mind.  I am one of the most aggressive parents I know in my son's school.  I get help because I make clear our rights.  Often times I have to rake back over things, over and over again, but I will always be there until someone hears me.
Educators can't help, unless they are aware. 
I don't mean just deal with an IEP at the end of each year, I mean become a strong part of the educational team.  Be your child's advocate and recruit educators willing to look deeper into what your child is experiencing and help other team educators understand the difficulties.
Be there for the educators and they will be there for you!  They have to be, it's part of their job.
Educators, please review this web page, especially this section.  I will continue to update this page often.
If you would like to be made aware of updates or would like to sign online petitions to assist us with governmental awareness, please send an e mail to   You will only be added to this list by request.  If at any point you would like to be removed, simply send an e mail with "remove" in the subject line and you will be promptly removed, no questions asked.
Please, help us, help you, with our kids.
Jacqueline Rider
Greensboro, NC

LOTS of help here! Don't miss Parents Dream Help Site!

Communication tips

People with depression may worry that family or friends will reject them, or that talking about it will make things worse. As a trusted friend or family member, you can alleviate these fears and help a loved one with depression discuss his or her situation, the first crucial step on the path to wellness.

Whether you're suggesting that someone seek professional help or encouraging him or her to continue with a treatment plan, it's important to be mindful of what you say and the way you say it.

Tips for having a successful conversation
  • Be an "active listener." Before responding with your own thoughts, try repeating back what the person has just said.
  • Don't worry about having the right answer. Just being present and showing empathy can go a long way.
  • Don't belittle the person's feelings. Attempts to say something positive like "You don't seem that bad to me" can actually make a depressed person feel worse and doesn't help them move forward.
  • Don't forget to say things like "I love you," "I'm here for you," and "You're not alone in this."

Talking with someone who is undergoing treatment
  • Don't assume that someone in treatment no longer needs to talk. Many people get discouraged in the first few weeks, before they feel any real improvement. It's critical that you stay in close contact and urge your friend or family member to hang in there.
  • Give positive feedback. Let him or her know when you see an improvement—even a small one.
  • Keep reassuring him or her that, with time and help, he or she will feel better.


Did you know that nearly two thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental disorder do not seek treatment?

Can you imagine if only one out of every three of your friends sought help for a broken arm?

Stigma is what keeps many people from seeking the help they need. We are discovering that the negativity and misunderstanding that often surrounds mental illnesses can create fear and cause shame, which in turn causes unnecessary pain and confusion.

What is Stigma?

Stigma goes far beyond the misuse of words and information, it is about disrespect. Stigma is commonly defined as the use of stereotypes and labels when describing someone. Stereotypes are often attached to people who are suffering from a mental illness. The simple fact is that no one fully understands how the brain works and why, at times, it works differently in different people. Our society tends to not give the same acceptance to brain disorders as we do to other organ disorders, say, heart trouble. The stigma surrounding these misunderstandings can limit opportunities, it can stand in the way of a new job, it can increase
feelings of loneliness, and it can cause many other unfortunate outcomes. Stigma must, and can, be exposed and overcome. Everyone must know that it is not their fault and that it is OK to ask for help.

What can you do?

If you know someone that seems extremely upset, maybe someone who displays extreme mood changes, or maybe even you yourself feel emotionally out of place at times ... the time is now to act, help, assist, notify, inform and get better. You just might be surprised on how much you can accomplish through understanding, hope, and friendship.



Recognize and support students who show signs of mental illness

by ATPE member Monica Roffol

"Nobody cares … I can’t take it anymore … I just want to die.” Often teachers hear these words and brush them off with a simple, “You don’t really mean that,” or “Everything will be OK.” We believe we can make life better for our students, and, as a result, may ignore the warning signs of mental illness.

As a former special education teacher, I know teachers face pressure from school districts to not mention concerns about specific ailments to parents, and we shouldn’t. Only physicians should make diagnoses. However, as professional educators, we need to be more sensitive and honest with our students and their families about the realities of mental illness.

According to the Center for the Advancement of Children’s Mental Health, one out of every five American children and adolescents has a mental or behavioral disorder that interferes with his ability to learn in school or establish healthy relationships with family members and friends. Not only do our children suffer from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, autism and other pervasive developmental disorders, they also can suffer from major mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia.

At its high rate of prevalence, all of us at some time or another will be touched by mental illness either directly or indirectly, so it is crucial we are aware of its warning signs.

Signs of mental illness

  • Distorted thought patterns, such as extreme guilt, racing thoughts and difficulty with concentration
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Impaired ability to form concepts
  • Severe depression, withdrawal or non-responsiveness to environment
  • Suicidal preoccupation or attempts
  • Acute anxiety disorders or persistent irrational fears, thoughts or impulses
  • Rapid mood swings that appear unrelated or inappropriate
  • Self-abusing behavior such as head-banging or self-inflicted wound
  • Lack of emotion or inappropriate emotion such as laughing when learning that someone died or showing anger for no reason

Steps you can take to help

  • The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) recommends that children and adolescents who experience these symptoms in a severe and persistent manner be assessed by a trained mental health professional. If you suspect one of your students suffers from these symptoms on a consistent basis, share your concerns with the student’s counselor.
  • Be specific as you describe behaviors and responses as well as any unusual verbal or written communication. Make sure the counselor follows through with parental contact to discuss your concerns. Do not take the situation into your own hands, even if the student is a teenager. You can open yourself up to lawsuits and even reduce the chances of the child getting appropriate and timely help.
  • If you have students who have already been diagnosed with mental illness or are suspected of having mental health problems, be sensitive to their conditions. No one asks to become mentally ill, nor do they contract it as a result of misbehavior or bad parenting, so avoid being judgmental.
  • Do not call attention to students’ behavior or put them in situations that could cause anxiety or provoke fear. Rather, offer encouragement and, if a conflict arises, always provide a way out such as cool-down time to avoid escalation of behaviors.
  • Life is confusing to children who do not fully understand the reasons for their lack of control or sadness, so be a positive force in their lives by emphasizing their accomplishments.
  • Showing compassion for families and caregivers is also important. As the stepparent of a schizophrenic teenager, I know what families go through on a daily basis is 10 times worse than anything that happens at school. A recent NAMI survey states that 59 percent of families felt pushed to the breaking point because many were forced to quit or change jobs to care for their ill children. Many times the parents are as confused and overwhelmed as their children.
  • Our society still shuns those with mental illness, and many people ignore the problem, thinking a child can “snap out of it.” Education and access to services are two of the most important factors on the road to recovery, so act as an advocate for your pupil and insist on getting help.


Photo of Monica RoffolMonica Roffol has taught at Bastrop High School for 11 years and is a member of the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill. She is a trained educator for the Family to Family Journey of Hope classes sponsored by NAMI.


School Mental Health Project Funded by The Duke Endowment

Ross Szabo





Lots of kids feel empty or lonely or sad everyday, but don’t know why,” says Ross Szabo. Now, the Director of Youth Outreach for the National Mental Health Awareness Campaign, Ross often speaks to young people about his experience. “I tell them that mental health problems can happen to anyone-regardless of gender, intelligence or socioeconomic status- and that, with help, they can get through it. I know, because I did."

Magical Choices * Greensboro, NC 27455