June 23, 1998
Contact: Lew Harris
Families of people with mental and behavioral illnesses have "been left on their own," Tipper Gore said June 22 during a roundtable session on family-centered mental health that was part of the Family Re-Union 7 Conference Monday afternoon.
The children in families where there is a person who has a mental illness "had really been left high and dry until just a few years ago, when people began to understand that mental illness affects every single person in the family," said Gore, wife of Vice President Al Gore and mental health adviser to President Clinton.
Mrs. Gore, co-moderator of the conference along with her husband, spoke during her guest appearance at a roundtable discussion at the Vanderbilt Law School--one of 15 such workshops held concurrently on the Vanderbilt campus. The Vice President led an interactive videoteleconference with three of the roundtable sites from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center on the topic of "Family Friendly Hospitals." Mrs. Gore said that it is important that the family make sure a person with mental or behavioral illness feels loved and not stigmatized and pushed to the outskirts of either the family or society. "Certainly we have seen from the beginning of time that when the illness manifests itself in the brain, it comes through in terms of behavior that is very, very mystifying to people and, in certain cases, frightening to people," Mrs. Gore said. "Information and education dispel ignorance. It replaces fear with knowledge." Mrs. Gore added that one must take the same common sense steps in getting help for a family member with a mental illness as one would if a member of the family had a physical injury or illness.
"If your parent or your son or your daughter had a broken arm, you would take them right to the doctor," Mrs. Gore said. "If they are having behavioral symptoms, take them right to the care and be a part of that care." After her remarks, Mrs. Gore took a seat in the audience and listened as Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School, facilitated a panel session that included four-minute comments from three other experts on mental health issues and policy--Barbara Friesen, Judith Katz-Leavy and Beth Stroul.
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