Dinner and Dialogue: The Lottery of Life

Cate Grace raises awareness about mental health and discusses growing up with a mentally ill parent

On April 19 the University of Wisconsin-Platteville held a dinner and discussion with the author of Collateral Damage: The impacts of my mother’s mental illness on me, Cate Grace. The goal of the dinner and discussion was to raise awareness about mental health and the damage that can be done within families and how the illnesses can affect everyone involved. The event was sponsored by Services for Students with Disabilities, University Counseling Services and Student Support Services in support of the campus climate initiative. The event was open to all students, staff and faculty, and there were approximately 50 people in attendance.

The event started out with a game that Grace made herself called “The Lottery of Life.” The game resembled “Chutes and Ladders” but instead of sliding down chutes or climbing up ladders, the players would get life-changing events to represent someone’s life. Some of these events included the birth of a child, a car accident, a house fire and a promotion at a job. For each of these life events, players would earn currency for social, personal, economic and health impacts. The first player to the end of the game was the winner. Grace was able to put the lives of someone with disadvantages into perspective for all of those playing.

“We chose Cate Grace because our goal was to find someone who could address the mental health stigma and make it relatable to college students,” director of the Student Support Services Laura Franklin said.

Grace said that she wrote her book, Collateral Damage, because she “was always looking for answers and couldn’t find any.” Grace has learned, through presenting her book, that so many people are struggling with the same issues and even though those people feel the isolation in childhood, it is something that she feels they can move past with the support of others.

“I came around to understanding my childhood better by writing the book,” Grace said.

For future writers, Grace said, “Write. Just write. Write every day. And experiment with what you want to write. Make sure you just practice, and don’t be worried about it failing.”

After the game was played, Grace held a discussion to talk about the differences in disadvantages, both visible and invisible ones. She also shared that until the 21st century, parental mental illness was ignored and pushed under the rug.

Grace gave four facts that she wanted the group to take away from the discussion and spread around the campus and community: “One: children dealing with parental mental illness have collateral damage. Two: those children need life lines to go to. Three: society needs to acknowledge parental mental illness as a problem. And four: disadvantages may be hidden but they are real.”

The advice that Grace wanted to share with students who may be struggling with mental illness is to get help. She said to be aware of how you are feeling because only you know how you feel. She said to not be ashamed of it and find someone to talk to.

If you ever feel that you need help, the Student Support Services offers help in tutoring, workshops, learning specialists, advising assistance, academic support, financial services and more. They are located in 105 Warner Hall and are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can also be contacted at 608-342-1816.