What Your Patients are Hearing

Glenn Close fights stigma; empty nesters share pleasures, pains


Glenn Close is infamous for her portrayal of a woman whose reactions to a one-night stand in “Fatal Attraction” become increasingly bizarre and hostile. Whether the character was in the throes of a mental disorder was never broached in the movie. But Ms. Close has real-life family experience; her sister has bipolar disorder and a nephew has schizophrenia.

“When I became an advocate, I realized that is a family affair for one in four of us. One in four is touched in some way by mental illness. So, it became obvious to me that we have to talk about it,” Ms. Close said in an interview on CBS Sunday Morning. In 2010, Ms. Close and her sister Jessie began Bring Change to Mind, a foundation that strives to move discussions about mental health into the mainstream.

Harm reduction and opioids

The “just say no” mantra to drug abstinence espoused by Nancy Reagan decades ago remains an option for some people today. However, according to an article in The Walrus, this approach does not cut it for many drug users. What may resonate is the harm they are inflicting on themselves and how they can lessen it by curbing drug use. In Ottawa, Canada, a program that features an individualized and flexible approach to opioid addiction, which continues to offer drugs while focusing on health instead of abstinence, is having a positive effect.

Pill bottles spill opioid tablets and capsules sdominick/iStock/Getty Images

“I’m an opioid addict. That goes without saying if you’re in this program,” one participant says. “Struggling with addiction while being homeless creates a unique set of challenges ... the [program] provides not only freedom from drug addiction on the street but freedom from homelessness.”

Empty nesters’ new lives

The ritual of being a parent, for many, is the bittersweet day when the last or only child heads off to college or university. A recent segment on National Public Radio gauged the reactions of some parents. For some, the initial feeling is one of relief, with days that are quieter and perhaps encouraging of more personal exploration. “After 20 years of every moment being about the girls, it was once again just the two of us. Some things are really great – walking around the house naked, going to bed before it’s dark and not having children mock us, and having a tidy house,” says Michael Pusateri of South Pasadena, Calif.

“But, we do miss the girls,” he adds. “I miss the sound of them bumping around the house. And as corny as it sounds, I miss seeing them sleep.”

For others, the polar opposite prevails. “My job as a full-time, stay-at-home mom to four kids has finally come to an end after 31 years when our baby left for college last week. I’ve been dreading drop-off day for about a decade. The hardest part was walking back into the now empty house, feeling swallowed up by the silence. The tears flowed when I walked by her room for the first time knowing she won’t be saying goodnight, Mom, from behind that door every night. Saying goodbye to the last is especially difficult as I sit here in my empty nest, missing my daughter and wondering, now what?” relates Beth Smizlof of Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“A hundred people will tell you how to raise your son, but very few will talk about how to let him go,” says Julie Stewart of Birmingham, Ala.

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