Familiar Minds

eliminating the stigma of mental illness in communities everywhere, one story at a time


Happy Birthday Tim

Tim, Bottom Row Center, 4th from the Left

Tim, Bottom Row Center, 4th from the Left

Happy Birthday to Tim, the inspiration for Familiar Minds!

This week, I’ve been struggling with what and how I could pay tribute to my brother Tim on what would be his 50th birthday, while continuing to lift up the voice for mental illness   Then, a classmate of Tim’s and former neighbor started posting pictures from our high school yearbook. And there in the center I was reminded of my inspiration. Pictured  in the middle of the first row was my handsome, proud  brother, then co-captain of his top seated wrestling team.   This high school classmate probably couldn’t even know how her own nostalgic moments would contribute and lift others.  Many, many thanks to her for sharing.

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Prospect and Fish

I don’t know about you but sometimes my burning desire and inspiration for a cause runs low and nearly dry.   In those times, miraculously something always happens that proves to rejuvenate and reignite my flame.  A few weeks ago, out of the blue, I received a call from a professional associate who had remembered my blog and my sharing my brother’s struggle with mental illness.  She was worried about her daughter who had been having emotional challenges while away at school.  In that moment, I was able to refer her to a few Resources, but most importantly listen from a place of compassion and support.

If this call wasn’t enough of a reminder about why this project is important, I received this anonymous poem, Prospect and Fish, just days later. The author traces  his father’s Sunday visits to  check on and care for him.  While we are too often reminded of the absent black father, this poem evokes the strong presence and the journeys traveled by fathers for their offspring.  So much of my own experience I could see in this one.  It was my mother who made the journey to visit my brother, but my father would have certainly done the same if he were able. 

So, special thanks to the mother who called me and this son who wrote this for us.

Prospect and Fish

Sundays he took the 18 bus from Bergen and Briar-
wood to Prospect and Fish; then, he took the A
train to Ozone Park where smeared on the third
floor of a dog-day row house lay his oldest: a sad
sack Lazarus who could not be resurrected from the bed.

Sundays, he lugged a bag full of victuals
and a mind full of thoughts about his oldest
who resented his father for showing up or resented
himself for being down on a crumb-crowded
mattress doing nothing with his life not even Continue reading

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An Oscar for……

Last night, as I watched the red carpet and cheered for Oscar favorites,  I took intermittent breaks to look over the listing of entries to name an Academy Award winner for Familiar Minds.  Of course, it took me only a second to realize that all of my writers were winners for their courage and honesty in sharing a bit of themselves, helping to chip away at the mental illness stigma little by little.  Even as I know this, I was curious on which posts were most viewed and thought I would share the list with you.  Here’s the list of top 10 most viewed. Continue reading


In Loving Memory of Tracy

This is my first blog post of the new year.  So, special thanks to T. I. Williams, a friend and colleague in Brooklyn, for this loving tribute and contribution to the late Tracy G. M. James. Tracy G. M. James was an author, blogger, visionary, and was a key participant in the film, “Out of Our Right Minds: Trauma, Depression and The Black Woman”  by Stacey M. Muhammad.  

Ms. James and Ms. Williams drew inspiration from each other through their sharing of theories, thoughts and writings on the intersections of family and psychopathology, blackness, femininity, youth culture and the Caribbean experience in America. Their richest exchange was a correspondence spanning two years which focused on the impact of their upbringing on the women they grew to become.  Tracy passed away on November 14, 2011. Her legacy lives in the hearts of people she ignited and in the conversations she birthed in love, passion, dignity and selflessness.  

Ms. Williams’ recollection of Ms. James is written with the kind of harsh personal truth Tracy encouraged.

In Loving Memory of Tracy 

Walking through Penn Station with slow heavy steps, dragging a body weighted with emotions as rapid successions of busy passengers buzz about eagerly running away from homes they no longer want to run to… the sounds of a solitary keyboard pour forth melancholy Christmas music from the warped hands of a dwarfed busser.

This is what Tracy Ginger James was like. Intense. Conflicting. Sensational. Invigorating. Depressing. And way too crowded with occurrences to have a sense of clarity or semblance of order. Continue reading

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Never Give Up

My colleague Dr. Aletha Maybank introduced me to Hakeem in her article Weathering our Personal Storms.  For anyone who suffers with bipolar disorder and for those who may have a family member or friend who is living with a mental illness,  Hakeem’s story will surely rejuvenate you. His honest sharing more importantly lifts up a conversation and gives all hope and courage to seek support if we need it.

Never Give Up

“Never Give Up.” Three bold words written across my favorite SGI International t-shirt. The simple phrase resonates with a lesson that I learned from living with bipolar disorder: be relentless. Living with bipolar disorder for twelve and a half years made me relentless in never giving up on myself, in fully pursing my spirituality, and in never giving up on others. Continue reading

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‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America

As we reel from the tragedy and get caught up in the debates on gun violence and mental illness, this is a must read article in Huffington Post  A mother provides her very real perspective and fight to save her child from a path of destruction.  Thanks Rena for flagging this to my attention.

‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America

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A Message from Mental Health America

Familiar Minds joins united with you and the world in mourning the victims of Newtown, CT, shootings.  Please check out Mental Health America’s message and their suggestions to help families respond and cope during this difficult time.


 Offers Guidelines to Help in Responding to Impact of Event;

Calls for Action to Prevent Such Episodes in Future