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Local Psychologist Writes Memoir About Dealing With Mentally Ill Family Members

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John Ostapkovich John Ostapkovich
John Ostapkovich brings humor and wit, and a wealth of experience...
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By John Ostapkovich

GLASSBORO, N.J. (CBS) – We’ve come a long way dealing with many diseases, but a memoir from a South Jersey psychologist focuses on one that thrives in silence.

Surrounded by Madness is the story of Rachel Pruchno, PhD, whose day job is as Director of Research for the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan University, but who in the rest of her life struggled with the mental illness of both her mother and adopted daughter.

One thing she says she learned is that silence is not golden:

“One of the things that we do so horifficly in terms of caring for people with mental illness is we all keep it a secret.  It’s amazing to me how many people I’ve spoken with since I’ve come out and told my story who tell that their parent suffered from similar mental illness or their child is in the throes of struggling.”

She hopes her memoir of dealing with that struggle will both help those with their own, and sensitize those who don’t have such a challenge:

“With every horrible tragedy that unfolds, whether it’s Sandy Hook or the movie theater in Colorado, you know people start to pay attention to mental illness and then we get this burst of attention and then it fades away.”

Dr. Pruchno says current law makes it difficult for families to deal with mentally ill adults, but a major bill sponsored by Congressman Tim Murphy of Western Pennsylvania fills many of the gaps.

One provision provides for mental health education for first responders, most notably police, who are often the ones to intercept someone having a mental health crisis.

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