Monday, October 12, 2009

The Impact of Mental Illness on the Family by Stella Mazzucchelli

Our guest blogger is Stella Mazzucchelli, author of Silk Flowers Never Die: Love, Death, Mental Illness and Courage in an Internationally Renowned Family.

Silk Flowers Never Die is an important and intensely personal memoir, powerfully showing with humanity and humor, the difficulties that exist for any family trying to cope with schizophrenia and mental distress. In a compelling story that reveals how much stranger than fiction fact is, Stella Mazzucchelli describes her determination to preserve her son from the worst effects of mental illness, while his young wife is dying of cancer.

In the process of trying to rise to these challenges, Stella is transformed from a beautiful, over-protected Society woman with alcohol issues, to an impressive, courageous earth-mother who now campaigns to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness by using her privileged position to positive effect. This moving book is informative on a host of subjects, ranging from the lifestyle of the International Super-Rich to the profundities of facing terminal illness and mental disease. Due to its intelligence, insight, and compassion the appeal of this amazing story and struggle should be universal.


The impact of mental illness on the family varies. The person that is most influenced is the closest member of the family, which is usually the mother. Can any mother turn a blind eye to their child's suffering? Not that I know of. Being an on-going condition, the mother has to come to terms to live on a daily basis with a heart wrenching, mind debilitating illness that never lets go. Initially there is the shock as most people do not have the faintest clue what schizophrenia represents, only the violence we hear over the media. Due to society's ignorance and brushing the subject beneath the carpet, we automatically think that our loved one might turn into a dagger throwing killer. It does not take long to realize that nothing really changes in our child except the torment, the voices, the hallucinations and his escape to a fantasy world which can sometimes be very cruel. After the initial shock subsides we then have to affiliate ourselves with the invisible demon that torments our loved ones mind, try to understand it's function, how to beat it, how to buffer the suffering it causes. After that stage, which I can assure you is complicated and tedious for the strongest, we have to then hide behind the 'stigma'. Having to deal with the 'stigma' is maybe the most difficult of all. It isolates and degrades us. As I can do nothing to contribute towards a cure, I can at least campaign against its reputation, that is why I have written my book and donated my proceeds to the U.K. based charity SANE.

Stella Metaxa Mazzucchelli was born in Athens, Greece and married, aged eighteen, Riccardo Mazzucchelli, the famous Italian businessman. During their twenty-two year marriage, they lived in Zambia and London, where she became a well-known figure on the social scene, and had a brief and successful modeling career at the unusual age of 28. Fedele is their only child. After their divorce, Riccardo married Ivana Trump in 1995, though the marriage was short lived. Stella now lives in Athens where she brings up her granddaughter Katerina. As well as being involved in the property and renovation business, which ensures she maintains connections with London, she is also a tireless campaigner for the better understanding of schizophrenia and mental illness. Silk Flowers Never Die is her first book.

You can find Stella online at and at her blog

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