Okay, so I'm finding that I know a lot more than I realized about mental illness, particularly bipolar. At least a lot more than they're covering in a Basics class. And I have THIS board to thank for that! Tonight they went over different therapies and medications used for various different illnesses from ADHD to Schizophrenia, what works and what doesn't. Evidently there's no EBP (evidence based practice) that shows things like CBT work for bipolar. Although I tend to believe that once someone is stable on their medications, the accompanying psycho/social issues that are usually enmeshed with bipolar can and need to be addressed eventually. They also covered which major neurotransmitters are involved for which disorders. That was helpful to see in a chart. The one thing I keep hearing from the other parents who have older kids is that they feel like the outcome for their 20-something bipolar kids would have been so much better had they gotten treatment earlier. A lot of them missed the red flags that were waving earlier in life, for whatever reason. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the right information or the right doctors or the right supports at the right time. I can see where being tied to a county or state mental health system can sometimes be restrictive and counterproductive as is evident by some of the stories I heard tonight. I am SO grateful to have had really good insurance for so many years. We probably would not have made the gains that we have in such a short amount of time without it for difficult child 2 (and husband for that matter). Many of the people in my class now acknowledge a family history of mental illness that was either unknown or explained away earlier in their lives (one woman's grandmother used to talk to herself -- she told her she was talking to the devil, and her parents just said grandma was going through menopause (!)), or they just believed it wouldn't happen to THEM (another woman's father was schizophrenic and she just always figured that once she moved out on her own, she'd never have to deal with the illness again -- but then she had kids!) Some families that are struggling with a dual diagnosis of drug/alcohol addiction AND mental illness are frustrated by how those issues are currently handled in a managed care setting. Sort of a chicken-and-egg problem where they're not sure which should be addressed first and not really getting a clear picture of what to expect in the treatment process. So I guess for me, the biggest benefit from this class is hearing the first-hand accounts of other parents and the journey they've been on. Some of their issues are similar to my own, and some aspects we have never had to deal with (and hopefully it stays that way). Did meet one dad who takes his son to our same psychiatrist. He had nothing but good things to say, which is usually what I hear about our psychiatrist. A woman sitting next to me had heard good and bad, but the bad was simply an issue where someone was in crisis and wanted to get in to see our psychiatrist, but they were not an established patient, so there was a long waiting list (some years are like that for him). That's usually not the best time to try to get in to see someone like that anyway, but I can understand the frustration. There is a shortage of pediatric psychiatrists anyway. Some people here travel 40 miles each way (90 min. drive on some days) to be seen. We're lucky I guess in that we've had a relationship with this psychiatrist for 9 years now, and he's only 30 min. away. There are three more classes after tonight. I can say it's been worthwhile, and would be most valuable to someone who is really new to the whole mental illness world and dealing with a recent diagnosis for their child. I'm wondering if our little group will want to start a "support" group that maybe meets monthly, if only to share updates with eachother and just chat. We'll see how things go over the next few weeks.