May is mental health month

With mental health care on the chopping block, it is important to keep in mind organizations that can help. Here's a list of groups I've compiled, which also include suicide prevention sites. Helpful Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Organizations American Foundation for Suicide Prevention bringchange2mind Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Healthline NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Stop A Suicide Today Survivors of Suicide Bereavement Support Association, Inc. The Compassionate Friends The Jed Foundation My son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder soon after he turned twenty-one. And after struggling with it for almost seven years, he took is life at age twenty-seven. Suicide is a huge risk for those suffering with mental illness. We must continue to work hard for health care parity, i.e., that treats physical illness and mental illness equally. It didn't exist when Paul was s … [Read more...]

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Review number 214!

Thank you so much Christine L. Miller, Ph.D  for this wonderful review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. Dr. Miller has an enormous sense of what my family and I went through during our son/brother, Paul's battle with bipolar and after his suicide death seventeen years ago. Though it has been that long, Paul is still missed - forever. Thank you, Dr. Miller, for your sensitivity and understanding. Madeline Sharples’ book about her son Paul’s suicide and its aftermath is a searingly honest portrayal of the most intimate details of family life, encompassing everything from mundane daily events to the emotional vortex they were all thrown into.  There is no sugar-coating how difficult the onset of his psychotic bipolar disorder made their lives, no shying away from the occasional resentment she felt about his mental illness dominating their daily existence, or how his unapologetic re-entr … [Read more...]

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The suicide risk is high for ages 10 to 24

Since our son Paul's death by suicide as a result of his bipolar disease in 1999, I have made it my mission to help erase the stigma of mental illness and work hard toward preventing suicide. I applaud Jennifer McGregor's work to help teenagers who are suicidal.  I certainly wish I had had her advice when my son was struggling with his mania and depression. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for writing this piece for Choices. Your words are very helpful. How To Help A Teenager Who Is Suicidal by Jennifer McGregor   Photo via Pixabay by Giesje Death by suicide is a serious problem in America, and it doesn’t affect one particular age group. In fact, young people ages 10-24 are highly at risk, as suicide is the third leading cause of death. The reasons vary, as do the solutions, so it’s important to know what the warning signs are and how to address them. Because the teen years can be so full of emotion and distress – especially where school and friends are concerned – it’s d … [Read more...]

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A wonderful 5-star review

Thank you so much for this great review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide. That makes 206 reviews total, with 66 percent of them with five stars. This review made my day. "as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life ... Exploring the real life story of the unspeakable tragedy of losing a son to suicide, author Madeline Sharples has written an affecting and heart wrenching memoir entitled LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON. A deeply personal and first hand account of struggling with her son’s battle with bipolar disorder and the effect on the family, the memoir delves deeply within the author’s consciousness, as she explores on the page what it is like to attempt to create normalcy within a family life where little exists. She tells her story with courage and abiding honesty never shirking from the hard truths of a life filled with so ma … [Read more...]

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I’m getting ready for a big long walk

  I’ve started training in earnest for the May 21 American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness overnight walk in San Francisco for suicide awareness and prevention. I walk in memory of my son Paul who took his life in 1999 at age 27. He was bipolar and severely depressed at the time of his death. The recent data, according to AFSP, about suicide is astounding: Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. General In 2014 (latest available data), there were 42,773 reported suicide deaths. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 15 and 64 years in the United States. Currently, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. A person dies by suicide about every 12.3 minutes in the United States. Every day, approximately 117 Americans take their own life. Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of … [Read more...]

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A special to honor the Out Of Darkness walk

The Boston Out of Darkness overnight walk for suicide prevention and awareness is the night of June 27 – less than two weeks away. And I’ve been very aggressively training for it. I’ll need to walk 16 to 18 miles that night, so I want to be well prepared. Yesterday I walked almost 10 miles, so I think I’m right on track to be able to complete this personal challenge. I'll be posting photos of my team S.O.L.E.S. and me in this hat. In case you’re wondering why the walk is at night, here are my thoughts – it’s to bring the suicide word out of the darkness. We need to speak that word so we can help prevent it. If people will talk about their suicidal thoughts maybe others can help prevent those at risk from acting upon their thoughts. I wish my son had talked to my husband or me. I still think after almost sixteen years that maybe I could have changed his mind had he only told me what he was thinking. Here's one of the S.O.L.E.S. team captains, Deborah Lee Rose, wearing the&n … [Read more...]

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Saturday, November 22, is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

Throughout the  fifteen years since our son took his life, I've met many folks in person and through  groups on Facebook who like me are survivors of suicide loss. So, I thought I'd remind all of us that tomorrow, Saturday, November 22, is International Suicide Survivors Day, an event always falling on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I did a little research about how this day started and found out that Senator Harry Reid introduced a resolution to the United States Senate which led to the creation of National Survivors of Suicide Day in 1999. Senator Reid is a survivor of his father's suicide. Every year since the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. The AFSP website says: International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather around the world at events in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. On thi … [Read more...]

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It is possible to have bipolar disorder and live a good life

Tom Wootton, a principle investigator of the Bipolar IN Order study discussed below, asked me to share about it and how people with bipolar disorder may participate in a full online course (a savings of $399.95) that will teach them how to thrive. Tom is also the founder of Bipolar Advantage. His website states: "There are many people talking about learning to thrive in spite of having bipolar disorder. For the most part they are talking about functioning during periods of remission and hoping that the periods of mania and depression won't destroy their lives when they return. Many others are choosing to pretend that they are in a permanent remission and are unprepared for the real possibility that mania and depression will happen again. If we are to truly thrive we have to accept that we will have periods of mania and depression and find a way to thrive during them instead of only thriving during remission. Bipolar IN Order is the only program designed specifically for that purpose. … [Read more...]

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Meet my guest, Tara Meissner, author of Stress Fracture

My son, a talented jazz composer and musician, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age twenty-one. As I got more and more informed about the disorder I heard that studies linked creativity with bipolar disorder, and my son's behavior seemed to indicate the studies were true. He refused to take his medications because they evened him out too much and hindered his ability to create his music. He, and I imagine others with bipolar disorder, very much liked their manic highs. However, I, like my guest today, Tara Meissner, author of Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis, never believed that all people with bipolar disorder are creative. It is also not true that all people with mental illness are violent, as so many people believe. Thank you Tara Meissner for being at Choices while on your WOW! Women on Writing book tour. I'm so glad you are here to share your views and bipolar experience with us. Being open about this disorder will go a long way to help erase stigma. Bipolar and the … [Read more...]

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How my memoir came to be

I wrote the following piece a little over a year ago for the Women's Writing Circle. I'd like to share it with you now. When I Knew I Had A Memoir I returned to writing regularly when our son Paul was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in March 1993. He had just turned 21 and was a senior at the New School in New York City. Early on during his illness I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), and her suggestion to write morning pages resonated with me. Because I was employed full-time then, I didn’t always write in the morning, but I always finished my three pages before the end of the day. So writing about my son’s bipolar disorder and later about his 1999 suicide death became my therapy. Writing during the most stressful time of my life became an obsession and a balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. Besides journaling I began to take writing workshops at the UCLA Extension Writers Program and Esalen Institute in … [Read more...]

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Stanley Family Foundation donates $650 million to psychiatric research

A donation of $650,000 for psychiatric research is so important to those with mental illness and their families and friends that I had to share this complete article from yesterday's "New York Times." My son Paul was struck with his first manic break when he was a senior in college in New York at age 21. He believed that people were poisoning his food, drinks, and cigarettes and were lurking in doorways out to get him and his girlfriend. He also became freaked by the constant sirens going off in the city. He was prescribed lithium during his first hospital stay, but he didn't stay on it consistently - he felt it interfered with his creative abilities (he was a jazz musician) - and unfortunately that was his downfall. After seven years of alternating manic and depressive behavior and many hospitalizations, he killed himself. You can read his story in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His S … [Read more...]

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A new milestone: 175 reader reviews

In the last 30 days my memoir Leaving the Hall Light On has received three new reviews. As a result it has reached a milestone: 175 reviews total - 113 with five stars.  I’m always thrilled with the five-star reviews, of course; however, the last three have all been terrific. Twenty-seven days ago, Michael Knezic’s five-star review said: “Heartbreaking! “I thought that the book was very well written and put you right there with the family. I don't know how difficult it was for them to write this book but I think it puts the reader right there with the family. It opens your eyes!!” On July 7, Bridgette Carpenter’s four-star review said: “A sad story about parenting a severely mentally disturbed son. “…The book is very sad…. It is so terribly sad that the parents could not keep their son in an institution where he would have been required to take his medicines and he would not have been able to injure himself. Their son was an adult so he couldn't be forced to take his medicines a … [Read more...]

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Five star review number 105

The 105th five star review arrived on my Amazon page on January 29. I was so impressed with what Stace of Australia wrote about Leaving the Hall Light On and her sensitivity to our son Paul's and our family's struggles, and the different ways people react to physical vs mental illnesses, I wanted to share it with your here. The gist is: mental illness is an illness just like a physical illness and needs to be recognized as such. "I really related to this book. Having experienced major depression I knew a lot of the scenarios and can imagine how Madeline's son Paul felt. How scared and alone he would have felt. This book is so heart felt and detailed. It's a real life experience that they can't take back but have learned so much from. I felt so sorry for Paul's family and friends. In some places in the book I felt angry with the parents for criticizing their son after he'd passed away, but at the same time I knew that they're hurting and angry that he left them. It hurts to hear … [Read more...]

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What is stigma and how do we erase it?

In memory of our son Paul and his December 31st birthday, I like to share (again) another mental illness resource. The stigma of mental illness could turn deadly if we aren't educated.... A couple years ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material he made one request – leave out the part about his father’s bipolar disorder. In fact he didn’t want to see any discussion of any of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family. That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists. Although my husband did not mention our family’s mental illness in the history, I openly discussed my grandmother’s, uncle’s, and mother’s mental illness in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On (now in paperback and eBook), and that I believe that their genes passed on bipolar disorder to my son. The most important way to erase stigma is to open the conversation about mental illness. T … [Read more...]

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103 five-star reviews – oh my!

I'm so honored to have received a five-star review of my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, especially, from Linda Appleman Shapiro who is a professional Psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor (M.S., A.S.A.C.) She is also certified in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Ericksonian Hypnosis/ Named Best Blogger in the field of Mental Health by WELLsphere and finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards for FOUR ROOMS,UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist's Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother's Mental Illness.  Thank you so much, Linda. I am proud to publish your review verbatim here. *** Linda Appleman Shapiro's Review of: LEAVING THE HALL LIGHT ON: A Mother's Memoir of Living with Her Son's Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide We live in an age where telling one's personal story is nearly epidemic. There are those who gain fame from revealing salacious facts about their lives, appearing on television talk shows and then writing memoirs because audiences embrace their narcissism, gain … [Read more...]

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Wonderful book club experiences

In the last week I’ve had two opportunities to discuss my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, and most specifically bipolar disorder and surviving suicide at two book club meetings.  One was in the San Diego area, about an hour and a half from my home; the other in Palos Verdes Estates about ten miles south of where I live. Both of the invites came from long-time friends. Even so, I felt very honored to be asked.  And since I feel the intimacy and the openness of a book club discussion is a wonderful way to promote a book and a cause, I don’t mind traveling long distances to attend.  On Friday night I met with ten women. Yesterday eighteen women huddled around me firing questions left and right.  That’s how I like it. Though I might say a few introductory words, I like the discussion to be in the form of questions and answers. That way I can discuss what my audience wants to hear.  And both groups wanted to discuss the subje … [Read more...]

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Presenting Laura Dennis, author of Adopted Reality

“With raw honesty and thoughtful reflection, Laura Dennis crafts a stunning psychological thriller in her true-life memoir, Adopted Reality. She weaves in three major life events– adoption, reunion with her birth mother, and a bipolar episode following the 9/11 terror attacks where her beloved Uncle Tom died in the Twin Towers and she believes she was responsible for his death,” writes reviewer Kathy Pooler. And most amazing is that it took Dennis only six months to write and publish her thriller of a story. I was especially interested in Dennis’ writing about her manic episode because it rang true of what I remember about my son’s bipolar disorder. My questions have mostly to do with that aspect of Dennis’ story rather than her adoption and reconnection with her birth mother. I’m so glad that Laura Dennis accepted my invitation to join me for a Q&A here on Choices. Madeline: I am so impressed with the way you have managed your manic and depressive states and with the clarity … [Read more...]

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Revisiting some probing questions

Laura Dennis graciously hosted me on her blog, The Adaptable (Adopted Mommy Expat on Fridays, June 14, 21, and 28. She asked me a series of questions about my book, Leaving the Hall Light On, my son Paul's bipolar disorder and suicide, and my grieving and surviving process. I think her probing questions are worth repeating and showcasing here. On Friday June 14, she asked: Are There Early Indicators for Bipolar Disorder? Laura writes, "The death of a child is unfathomable. The suicide of one’s young adult child after his suffering through years of a mental illness? Awful beyond words. … Painful to the point of, How do I get beyond this and not kill my own self? … Devastating, like, I’ll just live on anti-anxiety pills for the rest of my life. Which came first, the bipolar or the stress? Laura– Paul–your eldest son and the one you lost to suicide, was a creative, gifted musician. In trying to make sense of his death, you discuss events that could have indicated he wa … [Read more...]

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Mother’s Day reminiscing

Mother's Day is tough for me. Since my son Paul's death, I'm still not over the sadness of being without him on mother's special day. Yet I look forward to being with my young son Ben and his wife later this afternoon and evening. I know I'll feel a lot better later on. Ben generously digitized all our family photos from the time Paul was born on December 31, 1971, so I spent the last hour or so looking through them in iPhoto. So many wonderful memories and so many wonderful pictures. Here is my favorite - taken in 1991 at our beach by the late Mary Pat Dorr - a couple of years before Paul got sick with bipolar disorder. It was a truly beautiful afternoon.   … [Read more...]

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I have to brag

Emma, one of the three founders of the blog Book Geeks Unite, posted this review of Leaving the Hall Light On. It's so awesome, I have to share it. "Madeline Sharples’ Leaving the Hall Light On chronicles one woman’s challenges, grief and ultimately her healing as she and her family battle one son’s seven-year struggle with bipolar disorder and his untimely death by suicide. As I was searching for words to describe this book (words usually come easy to me), I could not find them. What to say about this book? Where are my words? Can you say you enjoyed a book about a mother’s grief over her son’s death? Not just his death, his suicide? I cannot say I enjoyed reading about her pain. What I can say is that this book completely engulfed my emotions. There were several times while reading, I realized I was not breathing. I had to remind myself to breathe. I realized that is a sign that I am “in” the book. The author had somehow allowed me in. I realized she had written me in … [Read more...]

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