Before you tweet another psychiatrist joke, consider whether it would seem funny to the more than thirteen million Americans who live with serious mental illness-or to the families who worry about them daily. Real mental illness is little like the cartoon stereotype of the man on the couch thinking he's a toaster. It means the agony of never being sure when to believe your own mind. It means the despair of constantly feeling miserable for no reason. And for the rest of the household, it means living with awareness that someone you love may start raving and swinging out of the blue-and that calling 911 could bring you a responder who's inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.
Severe cases aside, over fifty million adults in the U. S. have some impairment to their reasoning abilities or emotional control. And when life gets stressful, just about everyone has moments when they fear "losing it" temporarily or permanently. For parents, that worry is compounded by the stress of being responsible for children's constant needs-and by fears of being unfit to meet those needs.