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According to The National Alliance on Mental Health, 1 in 5 adults in the US will experience mental illness each year (that’s 46.7 million people in 2018), 1 in 25 will experience serious mental illness (11.4 million people), and 1 in 6 children in the US aged 6-17 will experience a mental health disorder (7.7 million). 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-34.

That’s a lot of sick people and a lot of families and friends dealing with mental illness every single day.

It stands to reason that most of us will find ourselves involved with someone else’s mental illness at some point, perhaps most often within our own families.

Unless our life circumstances put us right in the middle of this harrowing predicament, few will realize the difficulties this challenge presents, how different it will be from dealing with other health issues, and how commonly accepted legal and social norms will complicate our lives dramatically.

Nan Walker is a classical musician and teacher whose work is dedicated to encouraging a wider discussion of the issues that affect relatives and friends of the mentally ill.

She advocates passionately for appropriate self-care for those facing these circumstances and discusses many of the complex issues they will encounter.

She writes warmly and compassionately about the long journey of mental illness she and her family have endured for decades. She also discusses various related issues and offers tangible suggestions for self-care – all easily accomplished by anyone. Families like hers often find themselves in a constant vortex of unforeseen circumstances, and her practical suggestions encourage others so they might begin to thrive despite the chaos.

Learn more about the Author and why she wrote the book


“SMI is the hidden, often private disease. My experience with SMI is through the pain and shame of friends and family. This is not a topic that is a light read, but Nan Walker’s way is to enlighten, educate & offer help and tools for those who are looking for a book to guide them through the mysteries of this not often talked about subject. Ms. Walker does this through her magical writing style that walks us graciously through her fabulous classical musician’s life and family, until it wasn’t. Honesty is the word that comes to mind. Yes, I felt that parts are difficult to read and to absorb, but this is a woman who has used the creative tools of her performing and teaching life to help her husband and children. And for herself, as she says on the book cover, to “learn to thrive while coping with mentally ill family members”. Notice that the word is thrive. One cannot help others unless you yourself are sound in body and spirit. I found this to be a very uplifting and inspirational book. It is filled with useful and helpful information. It doesn’t sugar coat anything, but if you’re looking for one book that will give you hope in your dealings with SMI “My Life with Crazy” is it.”


“This book was and is great. The author goes through her family history with a rapier-like honesty to uncover something which is not talked of or dealt with much in our national conversation, but is a serious health threat none the less. I applaud her uncovering the many faces of SMI (Serious Mental Illness) and the inadequate support systems in place in all 50 states. She makes the case through her own history that the reason for this neglect is shame on the part of the families who undergo its terrors on a daily basis. This problem does not respect ...... class, intellectual ability or creative gifts. I highly recommend this book for those who are going through the difficulties and for those who want to support these families and our national community. She gives many good suggestions for support and further action.”