The Newtown shooting helped shine a light on mental health, especially how we view those who have mental health issues. One woman is urging parents to get out of denial and get their children the help they need.
Adrienne Lewis is the mother of 10-year-old Ian Lewis. Ian is funny, bright, and enthusiastic but he has trouble connecting with classmates, and he has trouble with bullies.
"Sometimes I punch and kick, and then sometimes I scream and they walk away," says Ian.
"He would snap and switch," says Adrienne. "His face would change. He became completely different."
Ian is bi-polar, and Adrienne acted quickly to get him help despite her fears of being criticized or shunned.
"The natural reaction is to blame the parent. I must admit before having a child I did the same thing. I'd be at a store and see a child having a temper tantrum and think wow what's that parent doing," says Adrienne.
Ian's diagnosis has changed over time. Adrienne has stuck with the treatments including medication and therapy.
"It get's better. The bad news is it gets worse again."
Knowing the challenges, and the rewards, of helping a loved one with mental illness has inspired Adrienne to teach other parents what she's learned.
"It helps you develop an understanding, which creates empathy and reduces the stigma of mental illnesses."
She's a volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which offers classes for guardians who need support. Adrienne says through education she's been able to bring out the best in Ian, such as his humor and his ability to stand up for himself and others.
"As a parent, once you are handling it, there's nothing you can't overcome to help your child."
To take a free 6-week course with NAMI, call (520) 622-5582. NAMI offers a variety of classes to fit the needs of those seeking support.
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