Talks will focus on signs of mental illness | ParkRecord.com

Talks will focus on signs of mental illness

Nonprofit Connect hopes the event will guide people

The holiday season is when people get quality time with family members. But the winter meet-and-greets don't always go off without a hitch.

"A lot people have spent a lot more time than usual with their family members and their loved ones," Lynne Rutan said. "They've really had an opportunity to be with mom and say, 'she's really not behaving quite like she used to behave.'"

A cofounder of the nonprofit Connect, Rutan said this time of year is the right time to pay attention to negative changes in loved ones, which is why the organization aimed toward guiding people who have family members suffering from mental illnesses is holding a series of talks.

"The Road to a Healthy Brain: What's Normal, What's Not" event that is designed to focus on signs of mental illness will be from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at the Park City Public Library, 1255 Park Ave.

The series of Q&A presentations will focus on four age groups: children, teens, adults and seniors. Each talk will be led by a psychiatrist and in its own room. The professionals will hold the same presentation twice, once at 6 p.m. and once at 7 p.m.

Richard Bullough, the Summit County Health Department's director, will introduce the sessions at around 5 p.m.

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Kristi Kleinschmit from University of Utah Department of Psychiatry will talk about children. Among other things, she will discuss if a child's temper tantrums are age-appropriate.

Melissa Lopez-Larson from the Park City Hospital will explain teens' tendencies toward moodiness, and Wilbur Dattilo, also from the university, will be there to talk about how adults deal with stress.

Maria Reyes, an assistant professor from the Department of Psychiatry, will discuss seniors' forgetfulness.

Rutan said the talks will serve as a resource for people who have concerns that family members may be suffering from something other than the common maladies that go with certain ages.

She looked back to a personal experience to explain why. Her adult son started using drugs when he was a teenager. Rutan thought his mood swings were caused by substance abuse.

"There are so many different issues going on with teenagers in this community," Rutan said. "Sometimes the child's behavior changes because of substance abuse. At other times, it may be self-medication for an underlying mental-health issue."

When Rutan's son was in his 30s, he was diagnosed with severe mental illness. A part of Rutan wishes she was aware of the issue when he was younger.

"We thought it was substance abuse when he was a teen, so we treated it with tough love, dealing with it by setting boundaries." she said. "In fact, it turned out that it's a brain disease that he has that is treatable. It would have been so much more important to have treated it when he was a teen, rather than waiting until he was in his early 30s."

Rutan wants the event to be a set of conversations, which is why the talks will be in a Q&A format. But she understands some people aren't comfortable sharing private worries in public.

"We will also have cards, so they can write down the questions."

She said it's also OK if people would rather talk about their concerns. The most important thing, Rutan said, is people feel comfortable in the setting Connect creates. She hopes "The Road to a Healthy Brain" will offer people guidance by answering questions that are tough to ask.

Rutan encourages people to register for "The Road to a Healthy Brain" presentations, which will be from 5-8 p.m. at the Park City Public Library. Registration can be found online at connectsummitcounty.org/event/normal-not.