Six Interviews with Masterful Authors in Honor of Mental Health Month…

And the Power of Storytelling to Heal

A masterful book can transport you into a different world, open your eyes to new possibilities, and get you thinking outside your normal thought patterns. So can a podcast that drops you into an intimate conversation as if you’re eavesdropping on dear family and friends. Imagine being a book lover and a mental health advocate and having the opportunity to get at the heart and in the mind of a skillful, well-known author. Imagine having the chance to ask all your pressing questions that arose as you devoured her/his book one-on-one and often face-to-face via Zoom or before Covid, in person?

That’s exactly what I got to do when I interviewed six masterful writers for Dear Family, the Podcast. Their prose, their scenes, their descriptions, their dialogue, and their genuine insight is literary magic. Personal stories bring us into a world where we not only see but feel what it’s like to be schizophrenic, bipolar, paranoid, suicidal, or highly anxious. We not only see but feel what it’s like to be the mother, the father, the daughter, the son, the brother, the sister, the husband, or the wife on the other side of the terrifying mental illness that deeply affects the entire family.

The following six Dear Family, podcast interviews are with masterful authors we know and love:

1.) I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb

Wally Lamb is the author of not one, but six New York Times best-selling novels that speak to generations of readers who recognize their own struggles within his characters. He’s twice been selected for Oprah’s Book Club with She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, a current HBO limited series starring Mark Ruffalo as identical twin brothers, one with paranoid schizophrenia.

The human struggle and the power of story to heal inspire Wally, a former high school English teacher. The work he’s done teaching writing to women prisoners in Connecticut and editing two volumes of their essays most embodies the idea of the healing power of storytelling. Wally’s characters are imperfect people seeking to become better people, stories that move beyond the boundaries and limitations of his own experience to better understand the lives of others. You can’t help but see yourself in his stories and be moved.

Listen to Wally Lamb on the Dear Family, Podcast Here:

2.) Hidden Valley Road, by Robert Kolker

Robert Kolker’s book Hidden Valley Road is currently Oprah’s Book Club pick and already at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list. He’s also the bestselling author of Lost Girls, now a Netflix movie.

In Robert’s masterpiece, Hidden Valley Road, he takes us into the unbelievable story of a midcentury American Family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia with incredible clarity and compassion. The Galvins have been called the most mentally ill family in America who for years were silenced by shame. The Galvins were also one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute on Mental Health back in the 80s to help us study genetics for future generations to come. I’m so thrilled Robert is here today to share this epic true family saga of how this unbelievable family became science’s great hope in the quest to understand schizophrenia.

Listen to Robert Kolker on the Dear Family Podcast here:

3.) The Upside of Being Down, by Jen Gotch

Jen Gotch is co-founder and chief creative officer of the multi-million dollar business whose products are bright and optimistic. Her large and loyal Instagram followers love her mental health advocacy as she bears her heart with a lot of spunk, humor, and personality. Jen designed and sold the popular “Anxiety” and “Depression” necklaces to legions of grateful women, with the net proceeds going to the mental health nonprofit, “Bring Change to Mind.”

Jen’s just written her first book, a memoir called “The Upside of Being Down,” about how her mental health struggles led to her greatest successes in work and in life. Her early signs of anxiety, bipolar, and ADD went unnoticed. As she struggled with her mental health conditions, she worked as a TV extra, a prop stylist, an art director, a commercial photographer, and eventually an accidental and beloved entrepreneur. Jen now embraces her flaws, appreciating the influence mental illness has on her creativity that continues to lead to her greatest successes in business and in life. Don’t be surprised if after listening, you are inspired to be more colorful and dance in front of dumpsters.

Listen to Jen Gotch on the Dear Family, Podcast here:

4.) Another Kind of Madness, by Stephen Hinshaw

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw grew up in Columbus, Ohio with Quaker roots. He went on to attend Harvard and UCLA, becoming a professor of Psychology and the Department Chair at UC Berkeley, in addition to becoming a professor at UC San Francisco and the Vice-Chair. His work focuses on developmental psychopathology, clinical interventions for youth, especially around ADHD, and the important work of ridding mental illness stigma.

In a departure from his research writing, Professor Steve has written a very personal story, one I know you will all be touched by. It’s called Another Kind of Madness: A Journey through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness, and it’s all about his father’s recurring mental illness and the doctor-enforced silence surrounding it. Steve was awarded Best Book in Memoir/Autobiography by American Book Fest. He’s the proud father of three sons and lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife.

Listen to Stephen Hinshaw on the Dear Family, Podcast here:

5.) Gorilla and the Bird, by Zack McDermott

Zack McDermott is the author of Gorilla and the Bird. His witty, intimate and personal memoir is the tale of a mother’s unconditional love for her bipolar son. Zack grew up working-class, hovering above the poverty line and witnessing crime in Wichita, Kansas. His mother was a schoolteacher who tutored Crips and Bloods, giving Zack the desire to give back by becoming a public defender for the Legal Aid Society of New York.

The story of Gorilla and the Bird begins with a bang when 26-year-old Zack suffers his first major psychotic break, complete with hallucinations that he’s the star in a television show about his life. Zack (the Gorilla) has to fight to regain his sanity after he’s arrested and committed to Bellevue Hospital. He turns to the only person who hasn’t given up on him- his mother (the Bird).

Listen to Zack McDermott on the Dear Family, Podcast Here:

6.) Electroboy, by Andy Behrman

Andy Behrman was the subject of a New York media scandal for counterfeiting the Modern Art of Mark Kotsabi, the same art he once sold, putting him in federal prison for five months. Andy spent numerous sleepless nights fueled by drugs, had anonymous sex, traveled aimlessly, went on midnight binges, and was even a male hustler. But before all of that, Andy had a happy childhood growing up in New Jersey, a golden boy who went on to graduate from Wesleyan University. He went on to become a filmmaker, PR agent, stripper, or whatever made him feel invincible and bright.

He was misdiagnosed by psychiatrists and psychotherapists for years, fueling his out-of-control euphoric highs and tornado-like rages of depression. At his most psychotic, Andy imagined himself chewing on sidewalks and swallowing sunlight. He was finally diagnosed when he was 29 with having bipolar disorder. After trying over 45 different medications, he decided to try electroconvulsive therapy.

Listen to Andy Behrman on the Dear Family, Podcast here:

Host of “Dear Family,” the Podcast, Writer, Educator, and Mental Health Advocate

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