MENDING WOUNDED MINDS: Seeking Help for a Mentally Ill Child

Beth Friday Henry, Author, Vincent L. Pastore, With . New Horizon $14.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-88282-242-6

Henry became stepmother to her husband's sons after he won a complex custody battle, but there was no happy ending for their blended family. Two-year-old Bobby was unusually small and mentally and socially underdeveloped, and four-year-old Tommy, also developmentally delayed, alternated between aggression and depression. Henry pursued help for the boys, who were diagnosed with malnutrition and as victims of abuse. Tommy revealed having been choked and sexually abused by his mother's boyfriend and having watched his younger brother being semidrowned by the same man. Bobby soon began to thrive under Henry's intensive ministrations, but Tommy descended into a post-traumatic stress–induced psychosis. Before age six he stabbed his sister with scissors and playmates with pencils; by eight he was molesting Bobby and other young children. Although hospitalized intermittently and treated with numerous antipsychotic medications, Tommy remained unresponsive. As his threats escalated, Henry finally found a program that would pay for the intensive mental health care her stepson so desperately needed and which her health plan had denied. Henry follows her harrowing tale with a step-by-step action plan for parents coping with mentally ill children. She writes authoritatively and accessibly, using her experiences to explain the byzantine process of securing help for a mentally ill child. Stressing online research, accessing local resources, intense focus on the child's welfare and determination to advocate for that child (as well as for any nonmentally ill children in the home), Henry illumines an often terribly dark path, which many parents walk alone. She addresses guilt, coping mechanisms and financial concerns with clarity and verve. (Feb. 20)

Forecast: With Henry's down-to-earth approach to a complex and insidious problem , Mending is certain to be used in community groups, mental health facilities, schools and other parenting venues. A 20-city radio tour will support the book.

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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