Sharing A Story to Raise Awareness: Mental Illness in our Students’ Families

January 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm Leave a comment

posted by Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ’81, psychotherapist and author

linphotoI had the distinct advantage of having studied at Bank Street twice, once in my early twenties studying early education (leaving before receiving my Masters in order to accept a full-time teaching position at the Walden School) and the second time in my late 30’s when I was in the first class of the then newly formed Human Development/Counseling Program, where Ruth Hersh was my mentor and became a life-long friend.

Having graduated from Bennington College with an undergraduate degree in Russian Literature, Bank Street’s philosophy and environment were both welcoming and familiar.  And I have been served well in the many years since, having gone on to become a counselor in private practice. What I learned at Bank Street also helped me in my work at an out-patient facility (Adolescents, Couples and Families), after receiving further certifications in Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Eriksonian Hypnosis, Alcoholism and other Substance Abuse Counseling.

In 2007, I published my first book, a memoir that was a 15 year work in progress. In FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS: A Psycotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness, I write about my experiences at Bank Street, what I learned from my student-teaching placement at the Walden School where I apprenticed with the best of the best, a woman named Vida Hoffman who made every child feel respected and important…something I was learning about in each of my classes at Bank Street, which emphasized how to teach, not merely curriculum and what to teach.

In the memoir, I also share my memories of growing up in the 1940s and 50s (a child of immigrant parents and a mother who was mentally ill), years before it became popular to talk about illnesses of any kind and/or their impact upon all family members. During those times, teachers were not trained or encouraged to identify children of what we now refer to as dysfunctional families and many slipped through the cracks and became victims, not unlike their afflicted family member.

Just as Bank Street continues to offer its special brand of outreach and insight to the students it educates who go on to work all over the world, I am hopeful that my story is providing similar hope and awareness.  There is a need for educators to identify such students and be sensitive to their particular family problems, while educating them and helping to advocate for them. Teachers can refer their students to the appropriate resources, ones accessible today which were not available to my family years ago.

As an alumnus, I would be proud to make myself available to speak with faculty, other alumni, or even current parents, should that be of interest to the Bank Street community. With all best wishes to one and all for a healthy, peaceful 2009…

Linda Appleman (Guidall) Shapiro ’81 is a psychotherapist, addictions counselor, oral historian, and author.  Her book is available at amazon.com and also as an audio book from Recorded Books Inc. (narrated by actress Suzanne Toren).  Linda shares more of her thoughts and experiences on her blog www.beyondatrauma.blogspot.com.

Entry filed under: bank street history, families, social-emotional learning.

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