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he boy wears Sponge Bob pajamas and sits up in bed, a blanket draped over his shoulders. What if the issue could be seen through the prism of an average American family – not just through the lens of a national tragedy? What if Daniel has an outburst in public and is misunderstood? Stephanie's fight is literally one of life and death – a desperate attempt to win back her son from the mental illness trying to consume him. Far fewer live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or severe depression, but the numbers are still large: 13.6 million adults and about 2 million children.
That motivates her to try to teach people about what it's like to walk in her son's shoes. The only time mental illness dominates the national conversation is when something goes tragically wrong. It gets buried under arguments about gun control, video game violence and unheeded signs of trouble -- until there's yet another mass shooting. That refrain emerged stronger than ever last December after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. I covered the tragedy in Newtown the week after the massacre and returned there a few times in the months that followed.What could be learned from people who deal with the day-to-day reality of mental illness?Many in his hometown know Daniel has a mental illness, but the family didn't want that label to extend to the Internet, where it could dog him when he seeks a job or applies to college.If his illness has taught them anything, it's that people judge.
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Stephanie included Daniel in the decision to lay their lives bare.