By LISA CAPOBIANCO
When national voice talent and actress Randye Kaye noticed her 15-year-old son Ben experiencing mood swings, frustration, and isolation, she thought he was going through a phase as a teenager. But as Ben transitioned into early adulthood, his symptoms worsened, and little did Kaye know that he was exhibiting symptoms of gradual on-set schizophrenia.
“This was beyond what I expected,” said Kaye, a former host of a morning radio talk show in Connecticut. “I did not know anything about it—I really had to learn and explore.”
Schizophrenia affects 2.4 million American adults age 18 and older, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI reports that schizophrenia, marked by changes in brain chemistry and structure, may inhibit an individual’s ability to think clearly, to make decisions, and to manage emotions. Individuals with schizophrenia may also exhibit hallucinations as well as delusions, and may have a difficult time performing complex memory tasks.
For Ben, he began experiencing delusions at age 17 when he decided to drop out of high school without a realistic plan, and started smoking marijuana. Struggling to find help for Ben as doctors misdiagnosed her son’s illness, several years passed before finding the right medication. Ben was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20.
“I learned to have empathy for my son and how I could help him, said Kaye, who also serves as a teacher and advocate of NAMI. “When you lose a child to mental illness, it is like he disappears.”
From the time, Ben developed symptoms of gradual onset schizophrenia to the time he received treatment, Kaye said she struggled to support her family as a single parent with several jobs. When she quit her job as a radio station host, Kaye had time to reflect on her family’s experience, and decided to write an account of Ben’s battle with schizophrenia in her own book called, “Behind Ben’s Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope.” In her novel, Kaye said she provides a better understanding of mental illness and the people who struggle with it.
Kaye will share her story with residents at Plainville Public Library, 56 East Main St., on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m., reading passages and answering questions. Through her story, Kaye said she hopes readers will gain a greater understanding of mental illness, and how to gain acceptance, resilience, and strength.
Kaye also said she hopes not only to spread awareness, but also to break the silence among other families who may be struggling with a mental illness so they may become a sense of comfort for each other.
“We need to understand that we are not alone—there is hope,” Kaye said.
Kaye said her son, now 31 years of age, has developed stability in his life. Although he continues to take medication, Ben now takes college courses and holds a part-time job while starting a social life.
“Parenting comes with adjusting your hopes and dreams,” Kaye said. “If your child develops a mental illness, you have to switch gears and still see what is good.”
Kaye’s book will be available for purchase during the event, and is also available online at www.benbehindhisvoices.com.