Community

Rye mom breaks mental health stigma

Rye’s Caitlin Verdier believes the only shameful thing about mental illness is the stigma attached to it, and she knows firsthand that too many children and families are suffering in silence. Willing to bare her soul and break the taboo, Verdier will share her family’s experience and learnings during a candid and open parent-to-parent information session on how to get support and navigate day to day with a child or young adult with mental health, emotional or behavioral challenges. The presentation, which will cover topics including how to find an appropriate educational environment as well as basic neurology, is free and will be held on Wednesday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rye Free Reading Room in Rye. To sign up for this free information session, visit family-advocate-ny.com.

Caitlin Verdier. Contributed photo
Caitlin Verdier. Contributed photo

The statistics around youth and mental health illnesses demonstrate the importance of early diagnosis and intervention. Twenty percent of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition, and 50 percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, with 75 percent beginning by age 24. “My goal is to encourage the transparent and open discussion of mental health illness so that local support groups can be formed and information can be shared between families. When we don’t talk we reinforce the stigma, and the longer a child is left without help, the more it is likely to cast a shadow over their entire life,” Verdier said.

Over the last 15 years, the Verdiers have been through one revolving door after another in the hope of helping their son, Antoine, whose 10 different diagnoses ranged from early-onset bipolar disorder to non-verbal learning disorder, and who has been placed on 17 different medications. They’ve learned that “a fix” doesn’t exist, but what does is education, understanding and learning with an open mind. “Each of these revolving doors is a breeding ground for education and learning, sadness and guilt, desperation and hope,” Verdier said. “My goal is to make any one of these stages just a little shorter or easier for anyone else by passing on my experience and knowledge,” she adds. “I want us as a community to raise awareness and make effective help more accessible, more proactive and more responsive.

“I know that children’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, and over the years I’ve worked hard to leave my own guilt and shame at the front door,” she adds. Her information session will show others how to do the same. “No judgment or patronizing, just good humored empathy and what seems like a lifetime of information and education that I want to share,” she said.

Over the last 15 years, Verdier has unwittingly become an advocate and expert in neurological, behavioral and academic issues for children who do not fit into a traditional academic setting. As a family advocate, she works with families who have elementary, middle and high school children with special needs, as well as families with young adults dealing with mental health illness, and focuses on the need to treat the symptoms and not the diagnostic label. As a parent and advocate, she is highly skilled and experienced in dealing with the school district, a range of diagnoses and their symptoms, therapeutic day and boarding schools, therapeutic wilderness programs, educational consultants, educational lawyers and family therapists. She is passionate about integrating behavior, neurology, academics and social pragmatics for any child who needs just that little bit of extra help.

This event is free and open to the public—whether you are friend, parent, neighbor, educator or clinician. To register, visit family-advocate-ny.com or email caitlinverdier@gmail.com.

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