"Just Between Us" Co-Host And Mom Discuss Her Childhood OCD, Mental Health Issues

By Paul Gaita 08/09/19

Allison and Ruth spoke to The Fix about the podcast and their hopes for listeners who might be experiencing a situation similar to theirs.

Photo of Allison and Ruth Raskin
Photo of Allison (left) and Ruth Raskin by Ken Raskin

The comedy-variety podcast Just Between Us continues to deliver frank and honest conversations about mental health with its 20th episode, in which co-host Allison Raskin delves deeply into her own experiences with obsessive behavior and suicidal tendencies during her childhood.

What makes the discussion even more revealing and poignant is the fact that Raskin is joined by her mother, photographer Ruth Raskin, who talks openly about balancing her fears with the focus needed to provide help for her daughter. Both Allison and Ruth spoke to The Fix about the podcast and their hopes for listeners who might be experiencing a situation similar to theirs.

Talking OCD

Allison—who shares co-hosting duties on the Just Between Us podcast and its popular companion YouTube comedy channel with fellow comedian and writer Gaby Dunn, with whom she also co-wrote the best-selling novel I Hate Everyone But You and the recently released sequel Please Send Help —has often spoken about her experiences with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as both a teenager and adult.

But in addressing her childhood struggles, she hoped to "highlight the pain that so many children go through, and how crucial it is for parents to intervene and help. Also, not enough people talk about the parental experience of dealing with your child's mental health, and I knew my mom could speak to that and help raise awareness."

In the podcast, Ruth speaks candidly about Allison's illness, which began to manifest when she was four years of age as obsessive behavior—a fear of touching the floor, for example—and later turned to suicidal thoughts that required Ruth to remain with her daughter at all times. "Allison's illness came on quickly and dramatically," she tells The Fix

Trust Your Instincts

Finding help for Allison required Ruth and her husband, Ken Raskin, to conduct their own research into the resources available to help children with mental illness. With considerable effort and determination, they were able to get their daughter to a psychiatrist within days of her first symptoms. For parents who may be noticing similar changes in their own children, Ruth strongly advocates taking a similar path.

"Trust your instincts and don't take, 'Let's just see if he/she outgrows this' if you know your child is suffering," she says. "Fortunately, insurance often covers mental health care in a way it didn't 25 years ago. And information is more readily available online. Learn what you can about resources that are available to you."

For Allison, her OCD symptoms present themselves today as what she described in the podcast as "something close to allergies," with flareups on certain days and on others, no symptoms at all.

"I don't try to figure out the cause because I know there is no true cause other than my brain acting out," she says. "Once I stopped trying to assign outside meaning to it, it took on a lot less power. So when I say I'm having a bad day, I know it will pass, and it doesn't mean my whole world is falling apart and I'm a massive failure—something I would have kept to in the past."

For listeners, and especially those who may have or know children with similar issues, the Raskins hope that they come away with a realization that, as Allison notes, "Mental illness is not limited to adults. If parents suspect that their child is ill, they can and should get help."

For Ruth, the takeaway for listeners is to try and keep their fears in check and focus on their child's health. 

"I just recommend that parents be as concerned for their kids' mental health as their physical health," she says. "Listen to them and do whatever you can to help, stigmas be damned!"

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.