Help for Serious Mental Illness

Matt Kurtz with his Mom
Matt, my beautiful son, with me in happier days.

 

Matt would be 35 years old today.  I heard someone say, “grief feels like a part of my soul has been amputated”, that’s exactly right.  We miss Matt so much.

When Matt died, I knew I wanted to do something to honor him.  My first thought was to do something to help people suffering from mental illness and their loved ones who struggle with how to help.  I never want anyone to go through what we’ve gone through.  I think about Matt and how scared he was, unsure of what was happening to him, and struggling so hard to fix himself.  I think about how fiercely we loved him and how scared we were, unsure of what to do and where to turn for help.  We found ourselves in unknown waters and very alone.  There was no road map.

What could I do to help others dealing with this?  It felt overwhelming, if our mental health system doesn’t have the answers, how could I possibly help?  So, I thought about Matt and wondered what other way could I honor him, and of course, it was by having his kindness ripple on through this website

However, I’ve continued to stay informed about mental health issues and continue to wonder what I could do to help other families.  A number of people have approached me with concerns about their loved ones and asked me if I had any advice to give.  The truth is Matt was diagnosed in February 2017 and died in May 2017.  In those three months, I was a researching fiend.  I was determined to find a way to help our son, but to my everlasting sorrow, we ran out of time. 

I have a lot of information, research, ideas for how to help someone with serious mental health issues that I was never able to try with Matt.  Today, on Matt’s birthday, I’m posting it with the hope that it might help someone else.  Note that some of it is traditional and some of it goes into very woo-woo theories.  Its information gathered in one place for you to evaluate and decide for yourself if it can help you in some way. 

If you or your family member is struggling with a serious mental health issue, I am so sorry.  I wish, with all my heart, that something in my research resonates and helps you find a way to recover or at least a way to live and thrive with this illness. 

And yes, I used the word recover.  In spite of what the mental health professionals told us, people can and do recover from serious mental health illnesses and others find ways to live with their illness while living fully productive lives. 

If this is something of interest to you, please read on.  If this does not affect you, first, thank your lucky stars, then share it with others who may not be so fortunate. 

Resources

I think the most important thing you can do is to work with people who believe in recovery.  Hope is very important for everyone involved, while hopelessness will suck the life out of you.  There is a “recovery movement”, “peer mentors” and “peer respites” all run by people who have recovered from psychosis or other severe mental illnesses, many of whom went through years of struggle, in and out of hospitals and crisis.  These people, with lived experience, are reaching out and trying to help others to recover and offering hope and strategies that the medical community has not offered. 

There is no one solution for any serious mental health illness.  Every person has different symptoms and reactions and each responds differently to the medications and treatment strategies.  For that reason, you will need to evaluate all of the information and decide what works best for you.  Note:  This is in no way a comprehensive list, just the start of information I’ve gathered. 

TREATMENT/THERAPY

Homes for Recovery: A directory of places for people in crisis to go to for 1-7 days.  It’s run completely by people with lived experience from psychosis and everyone affiliated (including board members) must be in recovery.    

Open Dialog Therapy – a program in Finland that seems to have amazing results.  There are now places in the US that are trying the open dialogue program.

Therapist, Will Hall (lived experience) – one of the original members of the recovery movement, now does therapy, including via skype sessions.       

Therapist, Dr. Jed Bopp, Boulder, CO, believes in recovery.  He is a psychologist who specializes in thought disorders and practices Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I’ve included him because he’s the first therapist who gave me hope.  He said, people can recover from severe mental illness – and after so many told me they won’t even bother with patients like this it was a rare moment of hope.  I don’t know if he does skype therapy but throwing it out there.

Therapist, Paul Levy, Portland, OR, believes in recovery.  Works with spiritual emergence.  

Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance –  this is a site that offers support to the person suffering but also their family.  It has support groups both in-person and online and many (if not all) of the group leaders have lived experience. 

Families Healing Together – an online course with other struggling families.

The Hearing Voices Network  – It’s believed that 5% of the population hears voices and continue to lead productive lives after they learn how to control and work with their voices. 

MIA Online Parent Support Group – A space where parents can exchange information and share experiences to foster a dialogue that goes beyond the predominant mainstream medical treatment model.

BOOKS/MOVIES/YouTubes

Anatomy of an Epidemic – book by Robert Whitaker (see also Mad In America website below)

How to Change Your Mind – book by Michael Pollan. (note this is not for people who suffer from any psychosis but is for people suffering from severe depression and anxiety.  It’s thought-provoking about the use of hallucinogenic drugs and the government-supported clinical trials going on today at Johns Hopkins among other places.  

Dr. Xavier Amador – I am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help, a two-part series.  I’m Not Sick, Part 1 and I’m Not Sick, Part 2, YouTube videos well worth watching.  Dr. Amador does a good job of helping us understand that people experiencing psychosis are not in denial, that part of their illness is “anosognosia” – which is the inability for rational thinking.  What they see/hear/believe is 100% real to them.  When Dr. Amador was in college, his older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.   

Below are a couple of movies that really hit home for us.  Note that they scared the hell out of us and are heartbreaking but they also gave us hope.

  1.  Crazywise movie compares the way people are treated in third world countries vs developed countries.  A spokesperson for the UN said if you suffer psychosis you have a much greater chance of recovery if you live in a third world country.  This movie promotes the idea of “spiritual emergence”.
  2. Be Vocal movie, follows 3 survivors who are peer support mentors.
  3.  Dr. Rufus May – the doctor who hears voices documentary
  4. Take These Broken Wings interview with the man on the street and two women with severe SZ who have recovered and live productive lives
  5. Eleanor Langden ted talk where she talks about her experience of hearing voices.  
  6. Beyond Possible: How the Hearing Voices Approach Transforms Lives – This short film offers a few first-hand accounts of the life-changing power of this profoundly human approach to the often frightening experience of hearing voices, seeing visions and other unusual experiences.

WEBSITES

 Many of these offer “alternative thinking”

Mad In America – founded by Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic

Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care  

Recovery International  

Schizophrenics Anonymous 

Spiritual Emergence Website  – gives referrals to therapists who work with spiritual emergence

Center For Spiritual Emergence

Chris Hancock, Therapist.  Support for Extraordinary Experiences –  I’ve got him down here because I really don’t have enough information about him but from what I’ve read so far, he looks promising.  I’d recommend doing more research, getting recommendations, etc.  

INTAR – the international network toward alternatives and recovery, director Dr. Peter Stastny.

The Icarus Project – support and education, by and for people who experience the world differently.

Mind Freedom International / Iaacm- International Association for the advancement of creative maladjustment – David Oaks (survivor) Oregon, fight for human rights for people labeled mentally ill, challenge psychiatric drug industry, promote effective options in mental health.

Freedom Center – Massachusetts, a peer-run organization run totally by volunteers, was the first in MA and many holistic options, against psychiatric abuse and med abuse, etc.  because of them, MA now offers a peer-run organization, The Western Mass Recovery Learning Center.

Western Mass Recovery Learning Center – supports healing and growth for individuals and the community as a whole through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks.

I Got Better – aims to challenge the dominant narrative of hopelessness in mental health care by making stories of hope and mental wellness widely available through a variety of media.

NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness

I hope with all my heart that something here gives you hope and can truly help you.  Good luck.  Kindness always.  Jackie 

Please, please, if you have anything to add to this list, put it in the comments below.  I want to hear from people who can share from their own experiences what has helped them or their loved ones.  This list will continue to grow as suggestions come in.

RESOURCES RECOMMENDED BY READERS OF THIS POST

Nolan Robinson Foundation – they raise funds for mental health treatment for young people (under 21) who have been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder regardless of their ability to pay.  

To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.

Find Your Anchor – the goal of the Find Your Anchor movement is suicide prevention, awareness, and education. They will send a small blue box packed with various materials designed to inspire, soothe and offer support to those suffering and to people who want to help by placing the boxes in public places (the library, the Vegas strip, etc.) to be found by those in need; specifically those close to suicide in one way or another. The boxes are intended to be organic in the sense that each person can add to the box their own inspiration and anchors before passing it along.

Warfighters ADVANCE – changes the trajectory of the warfighter’s post-deployment life, so that rather than an existence characterized by an endless cycle of mental illness diagnoses, medications, medical appointments, and disappointments, the warfighter has a life characterized by pride, productivity, healthy relationships, continued service, and advocacy for the same outcomes for their fellow service members.

26 thoughts on “Help for Serious Mental Illness”

  1. Thank you Jackie and Ron for bringing awareness and light to those who suffer in silence my heart goes out to your loss love you folks

  2. Jack and Ron
    What a thoughtful and informative article! Thinking of you all and celebrating Matt’s kind spirit today! I know his light is shining on all of you!! ❤️❤️

  3. What a comprehensive diverse wealth of resources! I will definitely keep this information to share. So many people hide what they are dealing with or don’t talk about their family member’s issues. We need to keep the conversation open and continue to share information. Thank you, Jackie!

  4. Jackie – I am grateful beyond words for the resources and perspective you share. There are so many new and promising paths and positive examples of recovery. You have given me hope. I am thinking of you today and celebrating Matt and his amazing family.

  5. What a hard day for you, Jackie and Ron. This is a great list of resources. You’re helping others support their loved ones before it’s too late.

  6. Your advice for others seeking help is a gift. Hopefully this may give you some comfort knowing that there is help out there for others like Matt. Your have honored your son’s memory well… Thank you for sharing.

    1. What a great picture and I’m sure this day is hard but they all are. You have listed an extensive list of resources that I hope will be of help to someone in need. Our beloved brother, David, suffered with depression & schizophrenia & it was hard to watch for we didnt have any answers or ideas of how to help. Thanks for bringing these posts to light for you obviously did a lot of research. With love & thinking of you, Ron & Brian. Bev

      1. serious mental illness is scary as hell. it’s an awful thing to see someone you love suffering and none of you understanding what is happening, then add the stigma on top of that. i’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this in your family. thanks for all your love and support.

  7. Jackie and Ron
    Know that you both are blessed and that Matt has you in his heart. I wish you strength as you continue in life to deal with this tragic pain. Love Chuck.

    1. thanks chuck, we’re so lucky to have you and debbie as our friends, having your love and support has made these past few years a little easier to bear. xoxo

  8. Jackie, Ron, and Brian,

    As I said to Brian the day we came to Matt’s ceremony, because of the love all of you shared together during his life, he will surely live forever. We wish we could have met such a wonderful person. Today we hope you are celebrating all the wonderful things he accomplished in his life.

    Our love to the whole Kurtz family today,

    Pat & Terry

    1. matt was a beautiful soul, i so wish you could have met him too. i wish he was here, we miss him so much. we are so grateful to have had matt in our lives for 32 years, it’s not enough but . . . . . thanks for your love and support.

  9. Wow, how much you have shared here! I am sure this information will be helpful to many others, as there are so many families who have loved ones fighting a mental illness. You, Ron and Brian continue to honor Matt’s life through this website, by shouting out the wisdom of kindness and sharing these resources. Love you guys.

    1. thanks julie, so appreciate all of your love and support. mental illness is so awful, i truly, truly hope this information helps others.

  10. Thank you so much for generating such a helpful resource for us, Jackie. I am going to pass this on to loved ones who are suffering and supporting others who are suffering. [Check out these free little support boxes for suicide prevention too – I found out about it when working on the gun violence event (https://findyouranchor.us/Boxes) I think I am going to order one to have on hand.]
    I think of Matt everyday and am so sad I didn’t get to meet him properly. But he lives on so brightly through you, Ron, and Brian.
    And because of this website, foundation, and the rocks of kindness you make to scatter about – Matt continues to lift people up. He was so generous and loving and on this Valentine’s Day I want to celebrate that deeper quality of love: the type of love that your family has for one another, the type of love that Matt and Brian shared, the type of love that you and Ron have for your sons—the type of love that ripples on.
    Love you!

    1. thank you for this beautiful comment, i wish you could have met him too, i know he would have loved you. your comment “matt continues to lift people up” warmed my heart and i know it’s true. i hear all the time from people who say they did an act of kindness in honor of matt, and that makes us feel good too. thank you also for contributing to this mental illness resource guide. Find Your Anchor looks like a wonderful organization. so glad you’re part of our lives offering love and support and just being the beautiful person you are.

    1. so true, it does take a village, even though our village is global – so many compassionate people who work to make a difference. thanks for all you do gloria. sending love.

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