Norwich, Connecticut

Another May Is Mental Health Month Author Event
Bob and Patricia
Patricia and I will be speaking tonight in Norwich, Connecticut thanks to United Community & Family Services, the SEMHSOC Youth Empowerment Group, and the Family Advisory Board/FSF.

When:
Thursday, May 21, 2015
5:00 pm

Flyer

Bob

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NAMI Walk 2015

I will be walking again this year with my friends from NAMI North Central at the 2015 NAMI Walk on Saturday, May 16, at Artesani Park in Brighton, Massachusetts. Join us.

Donations to this important cause are greatly appreciated: http://namiwalks.nami.org/boblarsted

Bob

Bob Walk 2015


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Letter to the Editor

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker made me mad when he submitted his new budget. So I wrote a letter to the editor of The Worcester Telegram. In some strange Turing Test, they published it today.

Here is the link.

Here is the letter. They added the title:

Governor shouldn’t cut RLC funding

When my teen-aged daughter first attempted suicide, the Collaborative Assessment Program came to her rescue and helped save her life by getting her hooked up with the Department of Mental Health. Later, when the Legislature cut that program for everyone except children of families with Mass Health, I told them it will be their fault every time the next kid with private health insurance dies because of their shortsightedness.

They still haven’t fixed it.

Now, years later, my no-longer-quite-so-suicidal daughter has found a safe and welcoming place at one of a small number of DMH-funded Recovery Learning Communities across the state. Here she has found innovative and cost-effective solutions, including peer supports and a hearing-voices group, a place to accept and find meaning in her voices — the very same voices that always come back no matter how hard the doctors and hospitals and their antipsychotics try to silence them.

And here she finds the camaraderie of others, struggling, as she does, to remain in the community rather than locked away in some more terrible place. Now the governor wants to cut RLC funding by 50 percent. This seems to me like another shortsighted, unsafe, and, ultimately costly idea.

BOB LARSTED
Holden

Published in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, April 23, 2015.

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Join Us In Holden on May 6

A May Is Mental Health Month Author Event
Bob and Patricia
A Frank Talk on Mental Health
Join me in Holden as Patricia and I talk about her battle with anxiety, depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and schizoaffective disorders. Share our journey through the minefield of school, family, and today’s healthcare system as we struggled to find a way for her to survive, and, ultimately, thrive.

When:
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
6:15 pm

Where:
Gale Free Library
23 Highland Street
Holden, MA 01520

Free and open to the public.

Flyer

I promise only a memorable experience. At previous talks we’ve had props, dramatic book readings, some giggles. And some tears.

Bob

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May is Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. Patricia and I are working on scheduling some Central Massachusetts appearances. Stay tuned.

Bob

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Join Us In Clinton on September 17

Bob and Patricia – A Special Author Event: Join me on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 at 7 pm at the Bigelow Free Public Library in Clinton, Massachusetts, as Patricia and I talk about her battle with anxiety, depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and schizoaffective disorders. Share our journey through the minefield of school, family, and today’s healthcare system as we struggled to find a way for her to survive, and, ultimately, thrive.

Bob With Books

It is free and open to the public. Here is the flyer.

I promise only a memorable experience. At previous talks we’ve had props, dramatic book readings, some giggles. And some tears.

Bob

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Unforgettable Jane Dutton

Bob Jane

I went to my friend Jane Dutton’s memorial service today to say goodbye. But somehow, I don’t think she is really gone from my life. Jane enabled me to talk with my children. I’ve had a different – and better – and happier life because of that. And for at least one of my kids, it probably saved her life. Thank you, Jane.

It all had to do with reading aloud to my children – even after they were old enough to read on their own – something Jane taught me was possible – even though not enough parents continue to do so. After reading tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of books together, once you’ve read the Funeral Oration of Pericles out loud to your eight-year-old, you can talk about anything – even the kinds of things no one wants to discuss.

I’m so happy for Jane and the courageous decision she had to make to move to the Netherlands a few years ago. But in doing so, Jane also pulled off something incredible: and that was that she didn’t abandon us – she was still here – and in many ways closer – from her new home so many miles away. And I was blessed to have a front row seat witnessing her having that same kind of different – and better – and happier life. I miss my friend: Unforgettable Jane.

Bob

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Placebo Facts 6

I went to Novel Approaches in the Treatment of Depression at Mass General Hospital on June 14, 2014. Cristina Cusin, MD, gave a great lecture on The Role of Placebo in Clinical Practice. She shared some fun facts about placebos:

6. Placebos work best if administered by someone in a white coat.

See the complete list here.

Bob

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Join Me in Leominster on May 19

A “May is Mental Health Month” Author Event: Join me on Monday, May 19, 2014 at 7 pm in the Community Room at Fidelity Bank in Leominster, Massachusetts, as I talk about my daughter’s battle with anxiety, depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, and schizoaffective disorders. Share our journey through the minefield of school, family, and today’s healthcare system as we struggled to find a way for her to survive, and, ultimately, thrive.

It is free and open to the public. Here is the flyer. Sponsored by NAMI North Central MA.

I promise only a memorable experience. At previous talks we’ve had props, dramatic book readings, some giggles. And some tears.

Bob

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Jane Dutton

My friend Jane Dutton died on April 17, 2014. I will miss her.

Jane was Director of the Gale Free Library in my hometown, Holden, Massachusetts, before she up-and-retired early and moved to The Netherlands—of all places—for love—of all things. It took me a long time to forgive her … because it took me a long time to realize she had made the right decision rather than some colossal, adolescent blunder.

My first real notice of Jane was in 1996 when she spoke at a parent event about family read-aloud at my daughter’s soon-to-be elementary school. Years later, that encounter made its way into a book I was writing, Witness to the Dark, the story of that same daughter’s struggle to survive her teenage years.

Here’s that snippet:

Reading to the children was my one true passion. We’d been doing it for years. Nearly every night. When Patricia was little, I would read her Goodnight Moon, or A Pocket for Corduroy, or The Poky Little Puppy. Over and over. Night after night. For hundreds of nights. I always assumed that once Patricia learned to read, my job would be over. Patricia was pretty smart, so I was beginning to dread the day.

When Patricia was in nursery school, I went to a parent program at the local elementary school about family reading. Even though we already knew how to read, I decided to go anyway. And sit in the back. And listen. Just to make sure I hadn’t been screwing up my kid. It turns out that reading aloud to your children is OK. Good to know.

I learned two more things that night: The first is that children’s literature had changed since I was a kid. I sat there and listened to our town librarian talk passionately about books. Librarians are supposed to do that; it’s their job. But what I was experiencing was more than that. This lady actually believed that books were interesting. And she gave us some examples: Hatchet, the story of another Brian’s survival despite acts of unspeakable cruelty rained down on him by Mother Nature, and Holes, a new book about digging for clues to your own history. I had to read them.

The second thing I learned that night is you are allowed to continue to read to your child even after they’ve learned to read for themselves. No one does it, but it’s allowed. The next day, I went to the bookstore, snuck into the children’s section—a place where I had never been and where I thought fathers weren’t even allowed—found the books I was looking for, brought them home, went into my closet, turned on my flashlight, and read them all. They were amazing. Things had changed since I was a kid. These books were actually interesting. They talked about real problems. Real issues. Uh oh. Patricia was four.

That’s when I really started on my first Quest. I spent years searching for the perfect books to read to Patricia. We started with books that were a little calmer. Books I could read to her as we got ready to read the books I really wanted her to experience. And during that time, we found lots of great books. Books for younger kids. Books that dealt with younger kid issues. Eventually, I overcame my fear of bookstore clerks. And librarians. Since then, they have been a great source for ideas on important books to read to my children. I didn’t realize until years later that, like firefighters, librarians and bookstore clerks have a passion in life: To help fathers find the next perfect book to read to their kid. Or at least the good ones do.

As we read, I overcame another fear: The idea that a book, particularly a chapter book, is just too big to read aloud to a kid. It turns out that if you read nearly every night, for years, you end up reading tens of thousands of pages. That’s hundreds of books. The other thing reading did was put us together. I got to spend time—about 40 minutes each day—one on one—reading to each kid. I was never a good conversationalist, and I certainly didn’t know how to talk with children, but reading passed the time, and for a few minutes each day, at the beginning or the end of our story, we’d talk. About little things. About problems and worries. It made it so I really did know about some of the things going on in my children’s lives. And it made me accessible. I could talk to them. And they could talk to me.

—Pages 29-31, Witness to the Dark by Bob Larsted

A few years later, and again a few years after that, as each of my children had learned to read on their own, and it remained clear that I was still nearly the only parent in town who read to his elementary-school-aged kids, I helped organize another couple of these family read-aloud events. Our guest speaker? Jane, of course. She was only too pleased to spread her message to new generations of parents. And it gave me a chance to spend time talking with Jane about something she clearly still cherished—even after her promotion from Children’s Librarian to Library Director—her love of children’s books.

As my book began to make it way onto paper, as I began to read what I was writing about my own hometown, and, even worse, as I came to realize that I had managed to write more than ten thousand words without writing even one properly-punctuated sentence, I knew I needed some real help. So I walked into Jane’s office, sat myself down in her side chair, a place I’d visit many times over the next couple of years, and asked Jane if part of her job was to help budding authors in her community try to understand how to navigate a journey begun more out of need than of desire. Actually, what I really asked was, “Do librarians like you get stuck reading and commenting on every wannabe author’s great American novel?” She said yes.

Jane became one of my first, actual, early readers. And because she wasn’t family or a close friend (yet), she was able to tell me what she really thought. She started by asking two questions: 1) Why are you writing this? and 2) How can you tell an honest story if you leave out your wife and other daughter? And then she made two suggestions: 1) Cut the oil-burner story in half, and 2) Lose most of the drug details. Those were the first four of a whole gaggle of my most precious darlings laid waste by Jane and her sawed-off shotgun over the next couple of years. I appreciated every one of her comments. My book improved every time I managed to take a bit of her wisdom to heart.

As the book progressed, Jane helped me answer some of those questions. And she helped me find the balance between writing the book I needed to write, writing the book I was willing to write, and writing the book that my intended audience would find some solace in. For some reason, she let me get away with my self-invented grammar without a fight, and, as the book got longer and longer and kept referring back to that oil-burner story in more and different ways, she let me get away with cutting it by only a quarter, provided, of course, that I trimmed the rest of the book by that same amount.

Jane’s exit from Holden came as a big surprise to me and to others in town. She had become such an important pillar in our community we didn’t know what we would do without her. But a strange thing happened: as she moved away physically, she grew closer by way of her occasional emails and her more-regular, new blog. And we all managed to find ways to survive with and without her in new ways. Over time, it became clear that Jane had found true happiness in her new family, something that could only have come by taking a tremendous risk. I hope they found that same connection with her, and if the smiles in the Facebook postings are any indication, it seems they did.

On March 16, 2013, barely two months after my book was published, I got an email from Jane saying that she had written a blog mentioning my book and hoped it was OK because she was posting it later that day. OK? Jane’s blog was famous. Of course it was OK. (But only if she had something nice to say?) I spent several time zones holding my breath waiting for her to press the go button. Ultimately, I was so pleased with her comments that I asked if I could quote her. Months later, at an author talk, someone looked at Jane’s quote—right up there next to the Kirkus review on my little display stand—and said, “Is that by the famous Jane Dutton?” Of course it was.

How could there be more than one famous Jane Dutton?

I will miss her.

Bob

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