Raising awareness of mental illness in kids

Randi Silverman made her film No Letting Go as a conversation starter about mental illness, and start a conversation she did when the film was screened Sept. 24 at Wilton Library.

It is the story of her family’s journey to find help for her middle son, who was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But the journey to that diagnosis — and his ultimate treatment — wreaked havoc on each member of the family.

Now Silverman, who hails from Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., has begun the Youth Mental Health Project to raise awareness and acceptance of the many forms of mental illness that affect children. The nonprofit brings No Letting Go into communities to spur conversations and create collaborations to change how people think about mental illness.

Silverman’s son first told her he no longer wanted to live when he was just 9, and Silverman told the audience of about 75 people at the library last week, “I truly believe if we had gotten [the right kind of] help in the early years it would have changed the trajectory of his illness.

Instead, her son changed schools multiple times, received psychological counseling, and was prescribed some 50 medications until he finally entered a residential facility where he received 24-hour care. He has since left that facility and is pursuing a career as a professional photographer.

“I would never ask another parent about mental health issues,” Silverman said of her reaction to what was happening. But that attitude changed.

“I feel it’s my responsibility to teach people. Once I opened up and became honest about what was happening, my phone rang off the hook.”

During a question-and-answer session with the audience, Silverman said that although her son managed to finish high school, he has not gone to college.

“There are more important things than going to school,” she said she learned. “The important thing is to help them find something they can do and feel good about themselves.”

Like physical health, “mental health is on a continuum, it’s not a black-and-white scenario,” she said, but she added that “for insurance and school purposes you can’t get services without a diagnosis.”

The film was sponsored by Wilton Youth Services, Wilton Library, Wilton Youth Council’s Parent Connection, and Laurel House, which had a table of information set up before and after the screening.

To learn more about No Letting Go, visit nolettinggomovie.com.