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  • AnnaK629

    Hey we interviewed at NationBuilder together and I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading this post.

  • brad tarr

    You deserve credit beyond expression for setting aside your issues with him and diving in to help him when he couldn't do it himself.

    The reconciliation you've both achieved will ease his final transition and imbue it with peace, rather than the regret/relief he would probably have had.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you, Brad. I think the most important thing to do about any hard situation sometimes is to move on and think about how to take steps forward rather than back.

  • DonieceS

    I'm so impressed with your bravery, honesty and huge heart. Too many people choose to turn away, to stay closed. You dove in, heart first; what a tremendous example. Ghandi would be proud as you truly do embody the change that you want in the world. Thank you for sharing and for reminding us that we can all choose to be changemakers!

  • Arifah Rahaman-Aronson

    What an amazing story and the sense of humility your father has. That's quite profound and says more about his connection to humanity than self. It's also quite remarkable how you were able to do this act and see the greater picture. I've seen many homeless and know some that are back on their feet. Their stories are foundational (not a word sorry) if we allow it so. When we turn away from things that seem unsightly we are in fact holding ourselves back as a whole. Romney has much to learn about people and compassion.


  • jenchiou

    amazing! you are an awesome human being, alessandra. thanks for sharing.

  • Deb Mills-Scofield

    Wow - simply wow -- your honesty and frankness will have an impact beyond what you will know... thank you!

  • Life Line Booth

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's inspiring to me to hear how despite everything, you helped your Father rather than taking the opposite route. Not only is it good for him, but yourself in achieving inner peace. Additionally, discovering how utilizing the resources available to help him leads to something greater - how it could benefit others too.

  • tomzdadster

    Thank you so much for shining your light on these far-reaching issues. I'm personally affected by mental health issues that have been passed across generations. I'm also a single adoptive dad who was laid off in 2008 and have a mental health diagnosis and have been living with support from social services and extended family. My family is okay right now, partly because we are lucky, partly because I keep seeking for help, partly because I keep trying to put my son first. In seeking for help I notice problems like not receiving calls back from agencies, not coordinating care between providers, providers with one or two areas of expertise not understanding how to juggle the variety of issues faced by families who live with complexity, and so on. I also note that sometimes a highly motivated intern will do the extra research needed to more deeply understand our family whereas an established PhD may fall back on rote therapeutic processes only to discard them after they fail. My belief is that people with mental health problems want help, and we are trying to get help. Depression has meant that sometimes I've done a terrible job reaching out and a terrible job communicating, but I can see that I need to keep trying and learn how to do better. It took two years for my family to receive help from agencies set up specifically for families like mine. At times I wonder if we actually got to the point where we were officially identified by the state as dysfunctional and assigned a social worker, would we receive a better/quicker response. But we simply haven't fallen that far down. Two more things: I live in California, and our family therapist/intern just let me know that Medi-Cal has decided to stop covering family therapy. Lastly: Sometimes it's really hard to remember to take meds and to get prescriptions re-filled, and just getting my son to do his homework is also hard because my energy is divided. And yet right now we're doing what we need to do. Thank you again.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you so much for your eloquent and really important response. If you can express yourself this well and have a family like yours, I am sure you're doing better than you may think. You're reaching out with amazing communication in your response to this piece, and that's a great step. You bring up a huge issue in your comment that I've noticed too and there must be a better system: "In seeking for help I notice problems like not receiving calls back from agencies, not coordinating care between providers, providers with one or two areas of expertise not understanding how to juggle the variety of issues faced by families who live with complexity, and so on." What do you think would make the system better for you?

      It is unfortunate Medi-Cal is not covering family therapy. Have you heard of the Maple Center?: There are some centers that offer therapy for $5.

      I also understand what you're going through regarding your energy being divided. Make sure to get enough sleep, and if your son needs help with homework, it can help to have free tutoring services sometimes, like those at 826 LA:

      • tomzdadster

        Yes! It's precisely because of the support we're receiving that I can participate in this conversation at all. Thank you for using your ability to see and for being so responsive and encouraging. The intern we're seeing is willing to accept $5, and I can and will pay that, but it's good to share resources. I see and appreciate that kind of sharing as part of the process of change. Sleep is tricky, but I have meds for that, too, thx! My son's generous teacher (who has 32 students) is offering one on one time. Can you believe it? This is a low income school with few resources.

        About the system: people at all levels need to participate in a change oriented mentality; everyone says there aren't enough resources, and providers have as much trouble dealing with Medi-Cal as clients, so they stop taking it. Many American cultures believe in the power of individualism, but people with mental health issues have reason to question themselves, and putting the problem back on clients: asking them to keep calling back, making them educators for their providers, making them coordinators for their healthcare providers -- is a recipe for disaster. The power of the individual is not enough. We all need to build alliances. For example, many senior citizens face remarkably similar problems, and it makes sense to investigate those similarities to locate the issues on which we can move together. However, given that the system is the way it is, the efforts of individuals do need to be registered, responded to, acknowledged, congratulated, documented, amplified or distributed, and then related to the larger effort for change. Providers often work without supervision, or with poor supervision, but no provider or client should ever be left with the feeling that she or he is isolated in the struggle. Agencies also seem slow to adopt technology, and many clients lack access, but agencies also find that clients appreciate that the deluge of info provided during an intake interview can also be found on the agency's website. My family's experience with the mental health system spans three generations. Just as with the educational system, the long view is extremely important in understanding what works. One of my closest family members is a retired psych nurse, but it's literally taken years for her to hear my story, to connect the dots with my sister's story, and then previous generations. Trained providers are sometimes in denial about what's right in front of them! They're not bad, but it's clear that providers also need someone to turn to. Kaiser offers classes to clients on how to deal with depression and anxiety and other issues. What a great, low-cost idea! Group work in general is probably under-utilized. What if my son could actually hang out in a safe place with other kids and talk about: my dad has a problem...? Providing broadbased mental health education would go a long way towards normalization of common mental health problems.

        • Alessandra Rizzotti

          Great point you bring up: "everyone says there aren't enough resources, and providers have as much trouble dealing with Medi-Cal as clients, so they stop taking it. Many American cultures believe in the power of individualism, but people with mental health issues have reason to question themselves, and putting the problem back on clients: asking them to keep calling back, making them educators for their providers, making them coordinators for their healthcare providers -- is a recipe for disaster."

          Great idea to have a group-based alliance - whether it's through a class like the one at Kaiser- or just a support group. Have you found any great support groups?

          • tomzdadster

            The main group i work with right now is called my family (smile), which I know is part of what you're doing, too, though our circumstances are different. In a larger sense there's "the group" of relationships I have with people who value change as a source of healing, e.g. there's a friend who Multiple Chemical Sensitivities who's also a single mother of three who goes walking with me and talks about her work fighting pharmaceutical companies even while she knows I'm dependent on meds produced by these companies for keeping my family safe and moving forward. Thank you again for keeping the spirit alive. I also want to add to my previous statement about individualism by pointing out that while the system may put things back on us, we still need to find the strength to keep reaching out, articulating our truth, and so on. Which means that we while we shouldn't be put in the position of educating our providers, we DO need to be heard, and so we are educators for the people in our lives. (smile) It's a contradiction, but the way through the contradiction is to view relationships with providers as alliances for health and change as opposed to instances where passivity and defeat are (re)produced.

        • tomzdadster

          Ugh.... I think I got a little over excited in my reply. Apologies. Really, the biggest issue is probably money.

  • Rishona Campbell

    What an amazing story! It shows that people that utilize welfare benefits are not just a statistic. There is a story behind each situation. None of us are perfect...we all make mistakes. That should not be grounds to deny people the ability to survive. Kudos to you...and feel very proud of yourself and your ability to put the past behind, and focus and building a better future; for you and your family!

  • Shauna Nep

    You are incredible, Alessandra. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Monicadefrance

    Alessandra you are such an inspiration! This was so beautiful! You should be so proud of yourself. Touching to see how much unconditional love and truth in your story. You are a beautiful being and can do so much just by your sharing, thank you.
    Please start a blog...I have a story similar and I so wish I had your courage and determination. Please give us some tips on how to persevere when you can see that people resist to help/ aid? So much fear from our help ...not willing to change...

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Monica-- YOU should start a blog. Feel free to post something on! I'd be interested to know what challenges you're facing.

  • virginiallorca

    I am 70. My father is 94. He lived nearby and I was his primary supervisor (my 76 year old husband on a ladder cleaning his gutters, etc.) Until one of my younger brothers put him in assisted living. One of my daughters just started a divorce. My 25 year old grand daughters live with me. I do not feel like I am changing anything. My grand daughters have a dad like yours. I think it is absolutely amazing that you went through all that to find him and help him. I don't have that kind of love in me anywhere. It isn't even deeply buried because I have tried to call it forward. God bless you and yours.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      I am sure you have it somewhere inside you. Having a strong family takes character and a deep amount of love.

  • Gerry Yumul

    Thanks for sharing Allesandra. Such a touching story of empathy.

  • Erin W.

    This resonated with me: "But it's not just about the services existing, it's about having someone to help people in need navigate those services and get what they deserve as human beings." I'm in Canada where reasonably generous social programs exist. But without people - non-government people -- to advocate for full citizenship and social justice, social support and spending won't ever be enough. We (as a community) can do better. Thank you for sharing this. I'm inspired and touched.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thanks for sharing Erin. Interesting to know that about Canada. What do you think needs to improve?

  • Jackie Ramirez

    So touching Alessandra, thank you for sharing such deep thoughts and your personal story. What a wonderful picture of you and your father at the beginning of the post. Much love to the both of you.

  • Resham Parikh

    I really loved this story. Many people in adulthood (including myself) don't have the maturity or courage to forgive their parents. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us!

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you for sharing Resham. I think forgiveness is the most powerful thing to offer anyone. It not only makes relationships stronger, but also takes a lot off of your shoulders. What's your story, if you don't mind me asking?

  • Lauren Modery

    Thank you for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes. This story sounds almost identical to a man I know, and I'm going to share this article with his family. You are a very strong and caring individual!

  • marian55

    I could help you find many places on this side of the Long Island Sound, but I am not familiar with the MA network of nonprofits. Try to do a computer search with keywords like "homeless services" in Massachusetts. The best advice I can give is to learn about some of your local charitable groups from the inside as a volunteer. It is a learning by small steps process. You have a good heart that accompanies a common sense brain, they will lead you in the right direction. The nonprofits here on Long Island could benefit from you. All the best to your dad and best of luck with your current journey.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you for sharing. I am in LA, but I love it when people share resources in other states. It's great to see what other orgs are doing.

  • Erik Tilkemeier

    Very impressive (and moving), Alessandra!


  • Steven Johnson

    Alessandra: I am sure I am not the only person who teared up, reading this. I will be 76 in May. My first reaction to your story is that you didn't HAVE to do this. Thinking of the needs of others, of those in need, is a sign of real character. Many Americans, by the way, who watched Mitt Romney's inept candidacy realized he was a "job destroyer" not a "job creator." While I know that showing off your writing skills is not the reason you wrote this article, but you are an excellent writer! I am very proud of you, young lady!

  • Rose Cabral

    Thank you for sharing your story. it sounds a lot like mine which is awesome because there are many times when I feel like I am the only one going through this experience. I have also taken on the parenting role for my dad. While not always easy, and sometimes feeling more like a roller coaster, I am learning compassion and patience. I am also learning how many people are affected by mental illness and I am hopeful that we will begin to talk because talking will help us support one another and learn, instead of hiding in the shadows. You are an inspiration to me and I wish you and your dad the best!! :)

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you for sharing your story, Rose. Feel free to email me at {Alessandra}@goodinc{dot}com!

  • Jacob Appel

    Alessandra, thank you for sharing this story. Your dad is right to be proud of you. And lucky, too.

  • Good Day Creative

    Your adult life (post-college) is just beginning and now your father's is too! He must be so proud of you!

    Thank You so much for sharing your reality!

  • Christina Mirando

    This is so beautiful, Alessandra. So very sweet.

    Aunt Bertha is a wonderful online resource for people looking to be connected to providers and programs. It's one of 2 B-Corps based here in Austin and their team is so awesome!! Learn more here:

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Wonderful! Thank you for this first resource! I've been looking for more like this! I'm also fascinated by Hand Up. Have you heard of it?

  • Amy Leibrock

    Thanks for sharing your story. We need more stories like this to help remove the stigma of mental illness. (I stole this line from my husband, who is a social worker with this population.) These people need services and support, but unfortunately don't always get it or don't have people in their lives who are able to help them find it.

  • marvinlzinn

    I understand both sides: My wife left me and four children, so I had to manage and pay for some child care while working to support them. Years later, from an accident at work, I had seven weeks coma. My daughter took care of everything while I was in hospitals five months. (If I believed doctors I would have been dead three times.)

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    Alessandra, Thank you for reaching out, taking care of your Dad and sharing your story to inspire hope in others. HUG from my heart to yours My father served in special forces in Vietnam was not allowed to say anything about what he'd seen or done. He had severe clinical depression and tried to kill himself 5 times throughout my childhood. I was one of the few people he shared bits of his life with. He died at age 47 when I was 22. Sadly, he never received the care he needed, but self medicated with pain killers. He would have turned 70 this January.

    • Kristin Pedemonti

      PS. Mental illness is a lot more common than many people realize. We need an overhaul of the mental health system in this country and to respect and show kindness to Everyone. Until we listen to each others stories we have no idea the challenges someone may face. I am now the caretaker for my mother who has a significant anxiety disorder that creates paranoia. I do my best to provide perspective, support and a more positive view of the world around her. I'm grateful that she has received better treatment than my father and more people have been more understanding that her illness is real.

  • K W

    Wonderful story, thanks for sharing. The link for LIFT is broken, FYI.

  • barefuut

    Thank you very much for your post. You give me hope for positive change not just in those around me but in myself as well.

  • Matty Cardarople

    This is my girlfriend! I'm so lucky and so proud of you for being amazing, brave and beautiful!

  • Patrick McDonnell

    Alessandra, your words, your wisdom, your ability to articulate your thoughts about how your and relationship with your father has affected you and translated those affections to the world at large are compelling and inspiring. You are definitely a changemaker, and I'm glad to know you!

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you Patrick. I feel like I'm just getting started. I'm happy to know you! YOU are a changemaker!

  • David Culver

    Well, I shared caring for my mother in the last 9 years of her life with my sister. The rest of my sibs were further away. Now I am working on an idea which supports distant caregivers using video chat and animation. I'd like it to be a business but many challenges. I believe your outreach to your father shows the healing power of knowledge and caring delivered simultaneously. Caring without insight is okay but not trans-formative. Insight without caring is also lacking.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Your idea sounds really fantastic. Have you thought of partnering with nursing homes and people specializing in technology to make it come to life? I agree that knowledge is so helpful- having resources is key. You could also consider working with an org like LIFT to create learning materials for your idea.

  • David Culver

    I'm about the age of your father. I have no daughter and am delighted to hear your story. Stay strong.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thanks for sharing David. Do you have strong familial connections or a community? No need to have child necessarily! Feel free to not share if you're not comfortable. But I'm interested to know what particularly drew you in to the story.

  • Kevin Van Lierop

    Wow. Thanks for taking the time to share something so personal.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thanks for reading, Kevin. With all your civic hacking expertise, do you know of resources to house the homeless? I'd be interested in connecting with organizations.

      • Kevin Van Lierop

        Nothing off the top of my head, but If I come across any I'll be sure to share them here on

  • Graham Button

    What a great heart you have, and what a great voice. I don't know if that was hard to write for a wide audience, but it's such an unsentimental telling of such an intimate story. Sad as this all is, you have made my day. Thank you.

  • natasciaradice

    What a powerful personal story you have shared! You have made it personal for everyone reading, made it impossible to ignore our individual ability to impact others by extending a helping hand and using "persistence". You are a strong, inspiring and compassionate woman! I am not based in US, but your story resonates in every big city.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you so much Natascia. I do think persistence is key in making anything happen- and I think that's the best lesson I learned from all of this.

  • WomenYSK

    Thank you for sharing this deeply intimate and beautiful story Alessandra! The lessons you have learned and are now teaching will certainly lead to a more compassionate world.

  • Julie Sokolow

    Your compassion is awe-inspiring, Alessandra! You write so beautifully and it's incredible how you are able to connect your father's struggle with the broader challenges so many Americans face, struggling to access critical resources. I wish we had a more cooperative society. Your generosity is truly hopeful and a step towards change-making, indeed! I'm in total admiration.

  • Audrey Bellis

    Incredibly powerful post Alessandra! Your compassion shines so bright and will only further the healing for you both.

  • Courtney Pankrat

    Wow Alessandra! What a great article. Thank you for sharing it.

  • Antok

    You are great. This is something that is hard to do.

    • Alessandra Rizzotti

      Thank you Antok. Have you ever experienced a difficult personal situation that you overcame?