Deborah Kasdan For Youtube

Mental Illness And Its Impact On The Family- With Deborah Kasdan


In this episode of Grief to Growth, host Brian Smith welcomes author Deborah Kasdan to discuss her powerful memoir, “Roll Back the World: A Sister’s Memoir.” Deborah shares the story of her sister Rachel’s journey through mental illness, institutionalization, and eventual recovery.

Deborah describes Rachel as a creative, adventurous young woman with a love for literature and poetry. However, signs of trouble emerged in Rachel’s late teens and early 20s, leading to a diagnosis of schizophrenia at age 23.

Diagnosis and Institutionalization

As Rachel’s mental health declined, Deborah’s family sought help through private psychiatrists. However, Rachel’s condition worsened, leading to involuntary hospitalization. Deborah candidly discusses the stigma and shame surrounding mental illness at the time, and how it impacted family conversations and dynamics.

“It was still embarrassing, and there’s shame, and especially for my mom, because even they, they would blame it on the mother,” Deborah shares. The lack of open dialogue within the family added to the sense of hopelessness and isolation.

Navigating the Mental Health System

Rachel’s journey through the mental health system was marked by a revolving door of hospitalizations and discharges to unsafe conditions. Deborah highlights the lack of adequate support and resources for those with severe mental illness.

Medication also presented significant challenges. “I think the overmedication just suppressed what would have been the high points in her development,” Deborah reflects. The side effects and sedation from early medications often did more harm than good.

The Road to Recovery

Despite the immense challenges, Rachel’s story is ultimately one of resilience and recovery. Deborah shares how a compassionate caseworker and a local agency providing housing and support made a profound difference in Rachel’s later years.

“She did survive the system. And that’s the story that I hope people enjoy in the book, is how she survived it,” Deborah emphasizes. She also highlights the importance of purpose, connection, and spirituality in Rachel’s journey.

Lessons Learned and Hope for Change

Through sharing her family’s story, Deborah hopes to spotlight the urgent need for change in how we approach mental health. She advocates for early family involvement, robust community support, and seeing the whole person beyond the illness.

“People need to have a purpose, and I think with coaching, they can succeed in jobs and school,” Deborah notes. She also invites readers to support organizations making a difference in the lives of those with mental illness.

By shedding light on Rachel’s life and poetry, Deborah honors her sister’s legacy while offering hope and inspiration to others navigating similar journeys. Roll Back the World is a testament to the power of perseverance, love, and the human spirit.

To continue the conversation and connect with others, visit Deborah’s Podcast Episode. You can also learn more about Deborah and her memoir at

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