Woman's Play Tells Real-Life Story of Son's Mental Health

Thursday, September 23rd 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Violence and teenagers brought hundreds of mental health professionals together Thursday. The Zarrow Mental Health Symposium is in Tulsa and is focusing on teenagers.

One woman performed a drama before hundreds of mental health professionals. Julie Russell is a nurse and college professor from Kansas. In the play and in real life, her son, Ben, had a problem mentally. He had a bedtime routine. Every night he had to say "See you in the morning when the sun comes up. Goodnight."

Russell says Ben was a good student when he was growing up. He seemed a normal, happy little boy. But in later years, after his parents had divorced and a friend had died, he changed. He closed up and wouldn't talk about his feelings. Both Russell and her husband noticed that his performance dropped in the sports that their son had participated. But as parents, they wouldn't discuss it.

Russell says that was the beginning of her son's problems. "We have to know that our feelings are good," she said. "And that the expressing of feelings is good." That's the key message she brings to mental health workers and to parents.

She says many things contribute to teenagers problems. Too many people are quick to blame one thing or say parents aren't doing what they need to do. "I think it's so much more complicated," Russell said. "I think life and society is complicated." Her son ended up in a mental hospital. Russell and her husband still don't understand where things went wrong.