Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave or handle their emotions. It is estimated that one in six children in the United States aged 2-8 years have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or deployment disorder. Families affected by this may be looking for resources or may find comfort in learning the stories of similar families.
Knowing this, local FishHawk resident Stephanie Giese recently published her book about her own family’s story, All I Never Knowed: Mental Illness, a Mother’s Love, and a Broken System. This heartfelt book tells the true story of the Giese family and the fight for their oldest son, Nicholas, as he wrestles with severe mental illness. Giese detailed the struggle spanning a decade of trying to navigate the children’s mental health crisis in America from the inside. The book shares how the family pursued treatment, found resources and learned coping strategies.
When Nicholas was 3 years old, he began to blame an imaginary friend he called The Other Nicholas for things he did yet couldn’t remember or explain. By 7, professionals were starting to use words like “psychotic break” and “crisis unit.” By the age of 12, he had been admitted to pediatric psychiatric hospitals on four occasions.
Giese is a certified elementary school teacher and mother of five, as well as an outspoken advocate for helping parents find the resources needed. The best advice she has for families with similar situations is that there is no shame in talking about it.
“There are sections in the book dedicated to resources and coping strategies,” said Giese. “My goal is to help families prepare proactively for mental health emergencies the same way we teach kids to call 911 for a fire.”
The book contains mature content and is intended for an adult audience. Nicholas, who is now 14, requested that Giese write the book and was very involved in its creation, but it’s told from a mother’s perspective. There are several interviews with Nicholas included so people can hear it in his own words.
“I actually started writing this book five years ago, but we waited to publish it until Nicholas was old enough to be more involved in the process,” said Giese. “We had it reviewed by two social workers, four therapists, several educators and a pediatrician before we published it. We wanted to make sure that we were presenting this information in the most responsible way.”
All proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to organizations like the Heart Gallery of Tampa to help kids from traumatic backgrounds. More of her writing can be seen on her personal blog, Binkies and Briefcases. Giese is available for Zoom author chats for book clubs, schools or community agencies that would like to use the book as a starting point for a larger discussing surrounding mental health and trauma trainings.
All I Never Knowed can be purchased on Amazon, Target and Barnes & Noble. For more information, you can visit Giese’s website at www.binkiesandbriefcases.com.