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The more that's said, the more we learn about mental illness

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:32pm

My affiliation with the Carter Center has allowed me to establish contacts with some of the top mental health professionals in the world.
I say that not with bravado, but with gratitude because it's allowed me to tap into their world - and it's world that more people need to see.

This group of mental health professionals, all of whom have associated themselves with Rosalynn Carter's Mental Health program, have written a series of books that have broken new ground in the mental health field.

And they've done it because of Mrs. Carter's inspiring call to give those with mental illness more of a voice in society. Giving people a voice could lead to more tolerance. To further this effort, Mrs. Carter awards $10,000 fellowships to at least six journalists each year to help them perform such work.

The following review refers to a book that was featured in a recent MSNBC video, and involves Larry Fricks, who sits on Mrs. Carter's mental health advisory board:

" Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of Illness, a Chorus of Hope" is the remarkable story of five ordinary people trapped in the complex world of serious chronic illness. In this intimate portrait, acclaimed journalist Richard M. Cohen probes lives of sickness as these individuals struggle to cope.

In 2003 Cohen published " Blindsided," a bestselling memoir of illness. The outpouring of support revealed to him that not only does the public want to hear from people who overcome the challenges of illness, but that in the isolated world of illness, there are people who want their voices to be heard.

"Strong at the Broken Places" was born of the desire of many to share their stories in the hope that the sick and those who love them will see that they are not alone.

Cohen spent three years chronicling the lives of five diverse "citizens of sickness:" Denise, who suffers from ALS; Buzz, whose Christian faith helps him deal with his non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; Sarah, a determined young woman with Crohn's disease; Ben, a college student with muscular dystrophy; and Larry, whose bipolar disorder is hidden within.

The five are different in age and gender, race and economic status, but they are determined to live life on their own terms. Intimately involved with these patients' lives, Cohen formed intense relationships with each, talked to their families and friends and shared joy, even in heart-breaking setbacks.

Though each individual's illness wreaks havoc in a different way, Cohen shows how their experiences are strikingly similar and offer lessons for us all—on self-determination, on courage in the face of adversity and public ignorance, on keeping hope alive, and on finding strength and peace under the most difficult of circumstances.

We are strong at the broken places, stronger than we think. In sharing these inspirational and revealing stories, Richard M. Cohen and his fellow warriors against illness offer a chorus of hope.
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