• Wed, Dec 4 - 2:00 pm ET

So Your Child Has A Mental Disorder – Now What?

166112656One topic that is hardly ever discussed among articles on parenting portals is that of “childhood mental disorders.”  Often, the very idea of your own child being diagnosed with  a mental illness (or admitting to you that they have it) is a nightmare for many, many a parent. And for some families, sadly, it becomes reality – according to the  National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report, approximately 13 –20 percent of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder  in a given year . That is one in five children – a scary number, made even more threatening by the stigma that comes with  depression, bipolar disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorders and many other, similar ailments. The reality behind those numbers, however, is even more dreary and upsetting, since only one third of people with mental disorders in the US actually receive qualified treatment. The rest are forced to fight on their own, with little help and understanding from their dear ones – and, yes, that includes children.

One of the biggest problems when it comes to having mental disorders is the invisible, but nevertheless real wall of misunderstanding, fear and aversion that is built around you as soon as somebody beside yourself discovers that you are fighting a daily battle inside your own head. That applies to children as well – the lack of understanding and education about  mental disorders is the main reason behind ostracizing, bullying, shunning the kids who are affected. Even the most helpful parents can make a faux pas; there isn’t much information on the internet aside from the quiet, fearful discussions on parenting forums which makes things difficult for those who try to search tips on being a better parent for their kids. This is the reason why I tried to compile a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for parents of children with mental disorders – and I hope that it will be useful to you, reader.

 

Do:

1) Be loving and accepting of your child.

This sounds like such a simple and basic thing to say, but so, so many parents start playing the blame game the minute they hear the  diagnosis, or “I have (insert name of disorder here)” – either they blame the other parent or the child. Sometimes it goes even further and turns downright ugly – for example, when I  started carefully hinting about my depression to my parents, they became absolutely furious and started scolding me about “acting up”, “being dramatical” and “manipulating them” -  which was the worst thing they could ever say to me back then, at the age of 10. Make sure that your children know that they can rely on you and that you’re going to do your best to  help them – otherwise, their trust in you will slowly start disappearing until it vanishes entirely. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.

2) Research, learn, process.

The key to understanding your child in this situation is learning the mechanism and nature of their disorder – the more information you get, the easier it will  be for you to have ideas how to be helpful and how to make your child’s life considerably better. Get books from the library, book store, or Internet, read articles, consult with  specialists, read accounts of others with the same conditions – every action counts, every snippet of information will bring you closer to your child and allow you to fully  empathize with how they feel. If there is a parenting blog, or a board for people with mental disorders that you know of, join it – and don’t be afraid to ask others. In fact, inquire about  everything, from the most serious questions to the ones you feel are silly or weird. Yes, it is a colossal amount of work, but it is something that absolutely has to be done – otherwise the understanding between you and your child won’t be complete.

3) Let your child know that you’ll provide them with all the help you can.

Find a good psychologist in your area, take them to therapy, talk about the things that help them cope daily. Ask  your children, discuss the things that make them happy, learn about the things they do to cheer themselves up on a bad day, and be supportive. Mental disorders do not go away  overnight, and their sufferers need a lot of support to just go through the daily routine that most people consider run-of-the-mill – which can sometimes be incredibly difficult and stressful for someone who has to find enough strength for even the smallest things. Give your children the literature that you find, too – it might be really useful for them as a tool to get behind the roots  of their condition and might help them to understand themselves better.

4) Spend some one-one-one time with your kid.

Take them fishing, shopping, playing football, skiing, hiking, doing anything they like. Sometimes, a fun day outside can be immensely  helpful when it comes to cheering oneself up, and it’s a great way to bond as well – they might open up to you more, and they’ll definitely feel safe and protected.

5) Be there for them in bad times.

Yes, your child will have bad days – complete with crying, shutting in their room, screaming, breaking things, or maybe refusing to talk to anyone.  Understand that it’s not a run-of-the-mill tantrum, please, and make sure you’re still there and loving them with all your heart. It’s the best thing you can do for your child in that state.

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  • Daniela

    My only issues with this article are the lines ‘Mental disorders do not go away overnight’ and ‘While the road to recovery from a mental disorder is a long journey, it is not impossible to conquer.’ Because you don’t ‘recover’ from mental disorders. You don’t ‘heal’, you don’t get ‘cured’, you don’t ‘go into remission’, or any such thing. Mental disorders can be managed, but they are chronic. The idea that someone can be ‘cured’ is one of the most damaging things that people with mental disorders can ever hear – because it’s just not true. There are ways to cope – self-care, knowing your triggers, etc. But it doesn’t go away. I say this as someone with bipolar disorder, who has had to deal with parents and friends expecting my disorder to be ‘cured’ just because I’ve had therapy, I’m on medication, I manage my triggers, etc. /end rant

    I do want to stress the importance of supporting your children (and friends, etc.) and not blaming them for their disorder. It invalidates their feelings, and it makes *their* disorder all about you. (By which I mean the general ‘you’, not anyone here in particular…just wanted to make that clear.) And it’s not something that’s about anyone other than the person with the mental disorder.

    • Evelyn

      Agreed, it doesn’t all magically go away leaving the person “better” and it can be harmful to assume that because a person is better at handling it and functioning then whatever condition it was is gone completely and never needs to be considered again. Someone can improve at living with it and functioning within the rest of the world though, and that can be a recovery of sorts, but that doesn’t mean family and friends should just brush it under the carpet and expect the person to never bother them with their condition again because they assume it is all over.

    • Paul White

      Eh, some mental disorders are NOT permanent; a person can experience an episode of depression (even a fairly long one) but recover with some medication and therapy, to the point where they no longer need treatment. You can also have traumatic events that cause problems–but those can (sometimes) be worked through.

      Stuff like true bipolar or schizophrenia are generally not curable, but they’re not the whole of mental health problems either.

    • Blueathena623

      However, the more incurable the mental illness, the greater the stigma, and there should be a line or mention about how not all mental illnesses can be cured. Not that I think people are going to take a mommyish article as official medical advice (no offense y’all) but people/parents should know that for some disorders, there is no cure.

    • Paul White

      I don’t disagree, but I also don’t like seeing a blanket “they’re not curable and you’ll always have them” being applied to any and all mental health issues either because it is simply not true. For many issues it isn’t true at all, and I’d hate for anyone going through them to read that and take it at face value.

    • AnonGirl

      Author here. Agreeing with you – I hope to kick my dysmorphia fairly soon, since I’ve been in remission for the longest since I was a teen without any psychological or medical help. Depression will probably stay with me forever, but I hope to lose some of the lesser issues entirely along the way.

    • JLH1986

      What’s sad is that even when clients do get better and work through acute issues, that diagnosis can follow them forever. :( It’s frustrating because there shouldn’t be stigma attached to mental illness. But…yea..

    • Blueathena623

      This is one of the reasons I’m open with my diagnosis. I don’t have it tattooed on my forehead, nor do I open conversations with it, but I will tell people if an appropriate conversation comes up. I want people to see that someone can be ok and have bipolar, since there are never any positive news stories about bipolar.

    • JLH1986

      This makes me happy. Of course you shouldn’t announce it to the world, but if someone is important enough to you, showing them that it’s not some death sentence. With work and sometimes medication and therapy it can be well managed and lead to happy healthy lives. It does wonders for the mental health community, because the only stories most people hear are the ones that end badly.

    • pixie

      I was really bad for pulling out my eyelashes when I was in grade five. It probably had something to do with anxiety due being ostracized from the majority of my peers by a couple of really mean girls and the teachers not caring. I stopped when I went to grade six and made friends with other girls who were much nicer and we banded together against the mean girls. I’ve never been diagnosed with any form of anxiety disorder, but I do get high anxiety and stress every now and then. I’ve learned different ways to cope with my anxiety, and I am happy that my parents are supportive and don’t tell me to stop it.
      I also realize that people with anxiety disorders or other mental health problems can “stop” as easily as I did, since as far as I know I don’t actually have an anxiety disorder.

    • Evelyn

      I suffered from depression as a temporary thing, but that was because it was one of the symptoms of glandular fever. It left when glandular fever finally left my system. My husband suffers from depression but for him it is the cause and not a symptom, and his will always be with him. Yes, you can have one of the conditions described temporarily but that is often when it is a symptom of something else or caused by something that has happened. Obviously it all still needs to be dealt with compassionately and sensitively by parents regardless though.

    • Blueathena623

      I completely agree. For those with uncureable mental illness, the idea that it can be cured can be harmful to patients because it gives them an excuse/reason to stop their meds without consulting anyone. I’ve seen it. Hell, I have awesome compliance, been diagnosed for a decade, on my main wonder med since 2005, have a lot medical knowledge, and even I sometimes think “maybe I’m better and don’t need the meds. Maybe I should stop–nope, bad idea. Danger will Robinson. Take the pills.”

  • elle

    I love this article. I suffered from a lot of mental health problems when I was younger and I know that some can be genetic (though I would say a good portion of my issues stemmed from childhood sexual abuse) so I worry a lot about my son going through the same issues and wondering how I would deal because it is scary and stressful and has such a stigma attached.

  • Bethany Ramos

    This hurts my heart so much and almost made me cry as I read this, especially the don’ts. I have had anxiety all my life that probably isn’t a disorder, but it hurts so much to feel alone in your own head. Wow, this whole topic really floors me.

    • Mikster

      You are SO not alone Bethany. Anxiety runs in my family, and where it is hard for me to understand, not having it, I DO know it’s not something you can control will away- and that it comes out in all kinds of ways.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thank you so much. I really appreciate your encouragement. :)

  • Evelyn

    I agree totally about coping mechanisms. When people get strict and make my child give up his coping mechanisms completely then he becomes a nervous wreck. I have found that it is better for the kid to channel him into similar coping mechanisms that aren’t as harmful, aren’t as disruptive to the rest of his life or aren’t as noticeable to people in his class who might bully him or just chose not to make friends with him.

  • Rowan

    I’m sure my parents thought I was different to the other kids on purpose, just to be difficult. Even now, when I’m 41 with a child of my own, my mum often acts as though my depression & crippling social anxiety are things that I could get over if I put my mind to it. Cos it’s that simple!

    • Bethany Ramos

      My husband is soooo very supportive of my anxiety, but he will still give advice, where he says, Just stop doing it! There is something to be said for facing your fears, but we talk a lot about how sometimes it’s not an instant fix for me.

    • Bethany Ramos

      My husband is soooo very supportive of my anxiety, but he will still give advice, where he says, Just stop doing it! There is something to be said for facing your fears, but we talk a lot about how sometimes it’s not an instant fix for me.

    • Rowan

      When my mum says stuff like “you just need to get out more”, I tend to get rather confrontational and “well bugger me! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

      I had a big Twitter row recently with some bloke who declared that “anything can be overcome with willpower”. I obviously don’t WANT to be well. *facepalm*

    • Bethany Ramos

      OH, I’VE NEVER THOUGHT TO STOP WORRYING AND OBSESSING BEFORE, THANKS!

    • Emmali Lucia

      I hate that! I will have massive anxiety attacks that last for a week or more. Like literally I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I start losing my hair, I have to be around people at all times (My anxiety is very untypical in the sense that it’s actually caused by NOT being social) and it never fails that someone will get really tired of me and be like ‘JUST GET OVER IT!”

      And then that just makes it worse because then I start freaking the hell out because they’re tired of me and oh God and blah and blah and insert more things to worry about here.

    • Bethany Ramos

      I can totally identify with that. Leaning on people a little “too hard.”

    • Rowan

      I get a similar thing with my depression. When I’m feeling ok, the “you just need to …” comments make me RAAAAAGEface but when I’m down, my treacherous brain says, “well why can’t you just get over it? It’s not like it’s a big deal. Only someone really weak would still be suffering. You’re a pathetic loser, aren’t you?” etc. Thanks, brain.

    • JLH1986

      HA HA. One of my clients when discussing his anxiety I told him we were going to work on Thought Stopping. Before I could explain what that was he said “OH CUZ I’VE NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT!” I cracked up. Once I explained it and we practiced he was better but he was so used to people saying this to him he thought his therapist was too!

  • StealthGent

    I dealt with a lot of “That’s normal/part of being a teenager” from my parents with the little stuff, like my anxiety and GID induced depression, so I couldn’t bring myself to mention the big stuff. After coming out (as Trans as well as having an extensive history of suicide and self harm) the first thing I heard was “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Parents, take your kid’s concerns seriously, even if they seem small.

    Amazing article.

  • Blueathena623

    I have bipolar. It has a very strong genetic component on my dad’s side — the majority of the men have epilepsy, and the majority of the women have bipolar (bipolar and epilepsy being very closely related. The fact that it divides itself male and female may mean something or may just be a fluke.) I will be on the look-out in my kids, and I consider it one of the positives of me having bipolar that if one of my kids has it or any other mental illness, I’ll be better prepared and have more empathy.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      I feel exactly the same way. We’ll be better prepared for the possibility.

    • JLH1986

      This is hugely important. I was seeing kids whose parents were undiagnosed. So it was incredibly difficult to help the kids and the parents on what to do at home because the parents were cycling and trying to manage their own, unsuccessfully. And you can’t just tell a parent hey I think you suffer from Bipolar as well.

  • Lilly
    • Lilly

      argh, it didn’t post the header, which was “if we treated physical illness as we treat mental ones”

    • Kay_Sue

      I love this. Amazing analogy.

  • AP

    I’m going to respectfully disagree a little with this advice. It seems targeted towards parents whose children have clinically manageable mental disorders, when there are plenty of kids who have very severe disorders for which there are few resources for the patient and the parent, or where allowing the patient to select the speed of treatment will result in something awful happening (say, homelessness, suicide, violence.)

    The United States has very limited mental health support for people whose illnesses require more intensive treatments beyond taking a pill and showing up for therapy. Their parents and families walk a very difficult road.

    • tubesfilledwithcats

      Good point! There’s also the fact that there’s not much research out there on how psych meds affect kids, so the stuff that can be an absolute lifesaver for us adults with mental illness can be unpredictable and/or dangerous for the younger set, even as teenagers.

  • Alicia Kiner

    The one that gets me is when people just assume that a child doesn’t have a mental health disorder, the problem is just you don’t parent the right way. For example, there’s nothing wrong with him, he just needs a good spanking. Or one day with me, and x behavior will never happen again. Cause that’s helpful…

  • Andrea007

    My mom thinks that “bipolar” is just a way of being eccentric. Luckily, my dad is more helpful.

  • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

    I am really happy to see this article! Yay! Thank you for being brave and sharing with us!

    I do have to agree with another commenter though, about how the more serious disorders are lifelong, and it’s more about learning to manage and function and cope than to “cure”. And that in the US and the UK, hell, everywhere, there is not sufficient affordable care (you don’t wanna get me started on the mental health care aspect of the NHS…oh god).

    And I have to disagree about not forcing treatment. Depending on the severity, sometimes, forcing is necessary. Especially when their life is at stake.

    I wanna add advice for the parents as well. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t agonize about what you coulda woulda shoulda done. Because of a massive failure on the part of my adoption agency, my adoptive parents had no idea what was coming and spent years feeling guilty AND facing accusations and interrogations from hospitals and psychiatrists.

    I’ve struggled with self-harm going on 15 years now, and I think I disagree with the last point as well. It’s bad, it’s harmful, it’s an addiction, and it should be stopped and treated ASAP for the best chances of recovery from it, and as soon as possible. Eating disorders and cutting, burning, etc are extremely dangerous and possibly deadly. While suicide is usually never the intention, it can be an unfortunate “oops” in some cases. Get them help and treatment for it ASAP – it’s in the hospital that I first learned the alternative methods. As a teenager, I thought my mom was being overdramatic by burying all the sharp things in the house in the backyard (…okay, it still seems a bit much) but I have to question how I would react if my own children started harming, especially knowing firsthand what a nightmare it can become.

    • ElleJai

      My mum resorted to calling the cops when she suspected I was self harming again. The hospital just thought I was attention seeking; it wasn’t until 8 years later, a team of therapists and a Borderline Personality Disorder support group that I was finally able to learn how to stop.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      See, I still haven’t stopped, technically, I’m just clean for now. Sort of. So my perspective could be flawed as well, but I can’t help but feel that if I hadn’t hidden the behaviors for three years, if anyone had caught on sooner, I would have had an easier time quitting, before it became a chemical addiction.

    • JLH1986

      Clean is a good start, and as silly as it seems try not to dwell too much on the what ifs. Focus on the here and now. Sending good vibes to you!

    • ElleJai

      I treat it like being an alcoholic; the temptation is always there but you can’t give in. I now practice “urge surfing” where I acknowledge I want to and sit with the feeling instead of giving in.

      It took me over 4 years to stop and I had well over 50 stitches by the end.

      The hardest part is now explaining the scars to little kids!

    • Blueathena623

      In terms of coping mechanisms, I agree with the article that a child shouldn’t be berated for it, but I also agree with you in that they shouldn’t be dismissed or accepted. Before diagnosis I used eating disorders, self-harm, alcohol, and sex to cope. Now I know they are more like symptoms than actual coping mechanisms.

    • AnonGirl

      I suppose that being gentle is the key to successfully allow the child to switch to other alternatives.

    • Blueathena623

      But the hope is that eventually treatment will prevent the need for any alternatives, yes? I mean, alcohol and drugs are very common coping tools, but the goal is not to cut back on alcohol or drugs, or switch to wine instead of hard liquor or cigs instead of pot. The goal is to treat the underlying reason for the coping mechanism.

    • AnonGirl

      True, true. I just don’t think that a person with a mental illness should be berated and criticized for trying to cope however they can, or should have their way of coping taken away instantly. Once the mental disorder is starting to be treated, the need for coping tools slowly declines/goes away.

    • Kay_Sue

      I disagree. Criticized and berated, no. Accepted, also no. As a parent, your job is to tell your child, “I love you and support you unconditionally, but this is not acceptable. I love you too much for you to harm yourself. I am going to help you, I am going to support you, and we are going to get you on the road to a healthy life together.”

    • AnonGirl

      If you’re taking a coping mechanism away, you should be able to give another coping mechanism to your child – the one that works equally well, otherwise you quite probably might do more harm than good. Coping mechanisms are there for a reason.

    • Kay_Sue

      And when your child still prefers the harmful coping mechanism, what do you do then?

      My husband’s best childhood friend is a heroine addict. Thankfully, after many years, he is finally in recovery. However, in the interim, there were many times that he rejected all efforts of help and other coping mechanisms, because of his addiction to his favored coping strategy.

      Sometimes, you don’t necessarily have the time to wait. In his case, his next fix could very well have been the one that killed him.

      Every mental illness is different. Every one has to be approached with a specific strategy to support and protect that individual.

    • AnonGirl

      You wean them off the said harmful coping mechanism. Simply taking it away and giving them shit about it is counterproductive and can be even abusive.
      I’m acquainted with a person who had been prostituted since toddlerhood and until she was a teenager. She cuts and drinks, but what kind of coping mechanism would you give her? WHAT could you give someone like her to stop her from daily suicidal thoughts?

    • Kay_Sue

      And when she cuts too deep, or when her liver rots away, how do you, personally, cope with enabling her coping mechanism and eventual death?

    • AnonGirl

      That’s the point – she knows what she’s doing. She struggles to go without self-harm, but when she just can’t, she falls back on it because there’s nothing left to her. What kind of equally pacifying/distracting/engaging activity can you suggest to replace her coping tools with? I can’t, which is why I trust her and hope she can cope for another day, then another and another.

      Also, that’s an IF, not WHEN.

    • Kay_Sue

      This is your friend. Not your child. Imagine having to let go of your child. I’m also assuming she is an adult.

      My sons are 7 and 3. I carried each of them, worried throughout my pregnancy, nursed them, birthed them–even went through my youngest being born not breathing, which was a terrifying memory still burned into my mind. Since then, I’ve done first steps. First words. Speech therapy for the youngest when he did not talk. First day of school for the elder, first report card. First stitches when he took a rock to the head from a clumsy friend.

      Not only that, but I bore my children with the full weight of dreams and hopes for their future. I hope they will settle down into great careers, find wonderful partners, have children of their own. I hope they will be happy and successful.

      When parents deal with a child with mental illness, they have the full weight of all of that behind them, driving them. Not only that, but there’s an aspect to parenting that is raising your child to be able to cope with life. Letting go of your child is not the same as letting go of a friend. Saying, “Destry yourself if you want, and I just hope you can hold on one more day” is not an option any parent wants to pursue.

      I am never one to say, “Parenting is the ultimate love or relationship or what have you”. I don’t believe that–all love is special and extraordinary. But this I know for a fact: It is a bond unlike any other and a love unlike any other. The devastation of losing a child is unimaginable, and yet, that is what you are advocating these parents live with day in, and day out.

    • AnonGirl

      Are you seriously giving me the “parenthood is a deeper bond than romantic love or friendship” bingo?
      I’m not having children. People like you contribute to the decision every day.
      I might be shitty parent material, but at least I’ll be there for my dear ones through thick and thin, despite not having them pushed out of my vag. I’ve had talked my friends out of suicide, I’ve helped them gain confidence, find love, I’ve taken care of them as they felt sick or down or suicidal. Don’t you dare pull the comparison card on me, don’t. You. Dare.
      Now let me go ~care about my friends~ and give them my second-rate, conditional love. They might as well need that.

    • Kay_Sue

      That’s not what I said at all.

      I said it was very different. Much like the love I have for my husband is very different from the love that I have for my friends or my children or my dog. Every love is deep, important, and special. Every type of love is also different. I love my best friend . She is like my sister. She is family. I would cheat, steal, lie, die or kill for her. That’s a fact. It’s a real and potent love. Hell, I even got my ass chewed for saying in an internet thread that if it was between a stranger or my dog getting hit by a bus, and I could only rescue one, I’d save my dog. That’s the entire reason that I put that distinction into that paragraph–I had a feeling that it would go in that direction as soon as I said it.

      No love is second-rate, but most friendships are conditional–that’s a fact. There’s only so much a person will be willing to take before they cut the ties. Parental love can also be conditional–there are nightmare stories of plenty of parents that seem incapable of really loving their children.

      It’s not a better type of love–it’s only different.

      What I am saying is that *parenting* is different from being a friend. You are not accountable for your friend’s actions. You do not have to turn your friend into a good person. You are not worried about whether your friend will be able to survive and thrive when you die. All of those are concerns with regards to parenting your child. And yes, losing a child is different–it’s not a more real type of pain, or a greater type of pain, than losing a friend, but it is a different type of pain. Much as losing a spouse would be different also. And honestly, at the end of the day, you have the right to throw up your hands and walk away from your friend if you choose to and say, “I can’t do this anymore. I love you, but I can’t.” Reaching that point is something most parents of mentally ill children never reach–and that many pray they never have to.

      I never said you were shitty parent material. In fact, you haven’t said anything that leads me to believe you are shitty parent material. Many people with significant mental illnesses parent with incredible sensitivity and success. My mother was one of them. Hell, I may be one of them if you want to get right down to it.

      To be real with you though, you’ve totally lost me. I saw your point initially, but now–I think you’re being histrionic, and I think you are too immature and raw in that area to have submitted this piece. And what’s worse, with the addition of all of your comments, I no longer even consider this to be “good advice in some cases”–this page has become downright dangerous to anyone with a serious mental illness or that is parenting someone with a serious mental illness.

    • AnonGirl

      Don’t worry lost me as well. Implying that unconditional love is more desirable than conditional is not something that should take place in this thread at all, and, thankfully, I am glad that you stopped acting ~supportive~. I might be raw and immature, but you’re incredibly judgmental and willing to curb-stomp anyone for the sake on an argument. At least I tried to write something helpful, and all you did was latching onto it, picking out a point that you disagreed with, then proceeding to make a debacle out of the whole thing.

      As for the “You are not accountable for your friend’s actions. You do not have to turn your friend into a good person. You are not worried about whether your friend will be able to survive and thrive when you die” part – yes, I am accountable, yes, I choose to better my friends, and yes, I am worried about their existence after I die.

    • AnonGirl

      *,you lost me as well. Skipped a word there.

    • Kay_Sue

      …I actually said even parental love can be conditional…

      And as for your second paragraph–you chose that responsibility for yourself. Society doesn’t expect it of you. Society expects it of parents.

    • AnonGirl

      Minding the context, though…

    • Kay_Sue

      What context? When someone specifically writes, “Even parental love can be conditional” in the same paragraph as “friendships are usually conditional” in the same response as a statement regarding having unconditional love for a very good friend herself, what context are you minding?

      The only context you are seeing is in your own head, Anon. I truly wish you the absolute best and I hope that your road only gets easier as time goes on.

      But as you have either purposefully or ignorantly misinterpreted my last three responses to maintain your own mulish agenda, despite the fact that they actually say specifically say the opposite of what you are accusing me of, I am going to have to leave this thread alone, or I am going to get internet-ugly. I haven’t done that in many years, because it is completely pointless, and I certainly don’t want to do it to someone that has put such a vulnerable and fragile piece of themselves out there today without realizing the repercussions of that action.

      Please take care of yourself.

    • AnonGirl

      Don’t worry, you might as well go internet-ugly. It’s actually better than what you are doing now.
      And oh how I love the whole pitting conditional vs. unconditional thing. Please, please proceed with it.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I seriously second your opinion here. I really just don’t want to say any more. Going to move on…

    • Kay_Sue

      I think that’s where I am too. I am tired of being purposefully misunderstood and misinterpreted.

    • pineapplegrasss

      You are right, deliberately argumentative and combative. Proves some of the points for me tho, about mental health. Scary too.

    • JLH1986

      I would agree. You can’t simply cut someone off from their coping skill. Maladaptive or not. If you can’t give them another way to effectively cope they are just going to continue to do what they know works. I haven’t worked too much with those who self harm, but I work with addicts. We give them basic tools to help say no, then we practice those and then we work down to the trauma or “cause” of addiction. We can do this simultaneously in some cases, but others we do a lot of how not to use work then we work our way back to help clients understand their use (or self harm). Often just knowing why they are driven to do it helps.

    • Kay_Sue

      Once again, I bring up the case of, what if they continue to make that decision over again, because they prefer it to the alternatives you have given them?

      I read a post on a site from an exasperated mom once whose 14-year-old was meeting men–grown men–online, and then sneaking out to sleep with them. It was obvious that she was coping with the fact that her father had recently abandoned her family. She was in therapy, and in treatment for various psychiatric disorders.

      Should I, as a parent, just allow her to continue doing that while I throw more options at her? Or am I allowed to take a stand and say, “I love you, but you cannot continue to behave this way”?

    • Kay_Sue

      My point being, with all of these posts, that no two people experience mental illness the same, and no parents are going to be able to parent mental illness the same as every other parent. Some of this is good advice; but most of it is good advice in some scenarios, and potentially tragic in other scenarios.

    • JLH1986

      Oh no. I wouldn’t let her do that but I would work with the counselor about the appropriate response or if he/she needed to be hospitalized. It’s admittedly tough on a parent because “forbidding” or punishing for the behavior can and does lead them to do it more or even more harmful behavior. So until a solid healthy coping skill can be put in place there should be lots of communication with a counselor/doctor and if they are hurting themselves hospitalization may need to be considered. Of course forbidding it or punishing isn’t going to stop them either so…it’s a fine difficult line. And no two clients are alike so it’s very much playing it by ear and working with that family.

    • Kay_Sue

      This parent actually went to court and begged them to hospitalize her. She was considered to be legally able to control her own health–including mental–at age 13. Her court-appointed guardian ad litem consistently went behind her mother’s back to schedule mental health appointments with the kid’s psychiatrist, who then made decisions without ever consulting the mother. It was a nightmare, and that’s the reality of zero support that many parents of severely mentally ill children face.

    • JLH1986

      Oh Jeez. That’s a level of cluster f*ck I wouldn’t want to deal with. And the mental health field is a landmine for everyone. parents, practitioners, clients. Trying to get a child hospitalized who needs to be but a parent thinks they are faking? Nightmare. it’s not perfect heck I’ve not even been practicing that long and see a huge need for overhaul. My father was repeatedly hospitalized and after three days was declared competent and sent home and we’d start all over. I was his POA in all things and I couldn’t get anything done. NIGHTMARE.

    • Kay_Sue

      It really is. I don’t know how to fix the mental health system in the States, but I surely hope we work it out sooner rather than later.

      It’s close to my heart because my oldest son has so much in his genetic make-up that increases his risk. My mother and I both have depressive disorders, my sister and his biological father have bipolar with the addition of multi-sensory hallucinations. It scares the crap out of me, even though I know (from talking to his pediatrician) that having a stable home and support means that he’ll be better equipped to cope even if he is diagnosed later on.

    • JLH1986

      Damn. I’m sorry that you have so much on your plate. Having a stable home and loving parents will help tremendously as well as you’ll be on the look out for symptoms or poor coping skills and can intervene early. Early intervention is a huge indicator in success later on. Couple the huge variations in clients with the “same” disorder and trying to work through the system. There are days where I just want to cry for my clients because their hands really do become tied as do ours. I’m not sure what the solution is yet (that 13 year old thing blows my mind) but we definitely have some work to do before it’s anywhere near where it needs to be.

    • Kay_Sue

      Thanks. We’re all at good points right now. I’ve learned to just enjoy that and go with the flow while it lasts. ;)

    • AnonGirl

      Author here.
      I suppose I wrote this entirely from my own perspective. I can tell you that, if my parents tried to force treatment on me or tried to intervene with my self-harm, I’d have killed myself asap, since THEY were the reason for most of my mental issues/self-harm. I had to go through all of this stuff (and later sexual assault by several people) absolutely alone. They don’t have any idea that they are the problem, and never will.

      As for self-harm, sorry, but I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you. I think it’s better to see your child alive and with several scars on them, than seeing your child hanging from a noose when you come back from work. Self-harm is something you do to prevent killing yourself.

    • pineapplegrasss

      No, that is not true. Self-harm is something that one does because they don’t know what else to do to feel relieved. It is a sign that big bad things are going on inside and it needs to be addressed ASAP. Its also usually kept secret.

    • AnonGirl

      Please do not tell define my reason for self-harm for me. I wrote this article in hope to help someone, and in return I demand basic respect, or at least a semblance of it.

    • pineapplegrasss

      I won’t get into an argument with you, but you just wrote an article from a first person point of view, and then identified yourself here in the ‘comments’ section. So, its up for grabs. What you state is just not true. I work in the mental health field, am sitting in a mental health clinic right now as I type this. And I see things in your article that could lead a parent astray, like the self harm comments. You can demand all the respect that you wish, in no way did I disrespect you by disagreeing with you.

    • AnonGirl

      Okay. I’m asking Eve to get this article removed. Fuck this shit.

      It wasn’t a disagreement – I’m not going to tolerate someone flat-out define my way of thinking for me. I’m going to be polite and just say bye.

    • pineapplegrasss

      but you want to flat out define thinking for others? you just gave a list of do’s and dont’s for parents of mentally ill children. bye.

    • AnonGirl

      It’s very sweet how you view a list of general guidelines (which are not an end-all list) as some kind of rules that are set in stone.
      Also, I hope you’re happy knowing that you made someone cry. A+, mental health person. Way to go, I hope this comment thread makes your day.

    • Just me

      Whoa, I think this article should be removed or at least these comments removed. I wouldn’t think that pineapplegrasses comments were so triggering – I don’t see the level of disrespect that you do.
      I’m sorry that you see them that way.
      I think this article should be removed if a simple comment can completely upset your day and make you cry. I think that if a comment can do this, then you are too raw for people to be commenting.

    • AnonGirl

      Apparently, the article can’t be removed – however, I’m not going to write any more related stuff (which I had the plans for). If people are going to eat into me for writing a piece from the POV of a disordered person instead of the POV of a psychologist, they are welcome to expect their articles from someone else and not waste my resources and time on writing something they don’t like/need.
      I hope that this article helps at least someone.

    • Kay_Sue

      I think if you had stuck to the POV aspect, versus the guidelines aspect, you’d have been kosher.

      I would love to see an actual POV piece from you–because this one isn’t one. It’s guidelines, not POV. POV is personal experience. It’s your raw emotions, your thoughts. This is an advice piece. It may be advice drawn from your experiences, but that does not make it a POV piece. A POV piece is you sharing your experience with people and taking them along for the ride. It’s allowing them into your head. This isn’t that, my friend.

      It is brave of you to attempt this piece, and as someone who also suffers from a mental illness I applaud you, but it is also fraught with danger. I probably wouldn’t take much cancer treatment advice from an individual cancer patient–they don’t have the broader knowledge of cancer as a whole, they can’t apply their experience with prostrate cancer to someone’s experience with breast cancer, they can’t apply their experience with drug resistant or stage 4 cancer to someone’s experience with a more benign type. The broader spectrum has to be taken into account also, and that’s not something an individual patient is necessarily able to do. In the same way, making sweeping generalizations about what parents should and shouldn’t do is a dangerous path that could easily lead to missteps.

      Do you know what I would accept from a cancer patient? Their actual experiences. What were they feeling? What was the effect on their family? What were the treatments themselves like?

      In the same way, I would love to hear your story.

    • AnonGirl

      Sorry, but I’m not going to write one. I hoped to, but I’m definitely not interested anymore. Anyone else is free to step up to the plate and write whatever they want.

    • Kay_Sue

      That’s sad. You had a good voice. But it’s your discretion. :)

    • AnonGirl

      I suppose it wasn’t good enough for some people. I don’t want a very personal article to be picked apart like I OWE people some kind of an amazing, groundbreaking piece that is good enough for them to frame and hang on the wall. It’s tiresome enough to write this and even more tiresome to hear shit about it.

    • Kay_Sue

      That’s kind of the point of the internet, in general, and writing, in particular. Not everyone is going to agree, or applaud your efforts, or care at all. Every time you put yourself out there you’ll risk getting torn apart. I like the fan theory that J.K. Rowling made each of her books a Horcrux–i.e., she put a little piece of her soul in every single one. That’s what writing is.

      If you aren’t ready to do that, it’s completely understandable. It’s incredibly difficult and personal and raw, and I can see how the reaction to this piece would be off-putting for you, because it’s obvious in reading it that it represents a lot of time, effort, and thought on your part. But when you submit a piece on a site that promotes discussion on this level, you really can’t hate that people are discussing it. It’s a good sign that you posted something relevant and relatable. I’d encourage you to take a look at some of the other Anonymous posts that have made it on the site–many of them garnered tough feedback, because that is the nature of the beast.

    • AnonGirl

      I can hate them being disrespectful to me, or telling me that they know the contents of my head better than I do. There are some people who actually are arguing respectfully up in the thread, and it’s pretty nice. Someone who tries to bite into me? Nope, NHFT.

    • Bethany Ramos

      Hey, I just want you to read this and know that while I didn’t see this comment thread as rude or argumentative at all, I TOTALLY get how hard it is to put yourself out there and then discuss it. No matter what happens with this post, just pat yourself on the back for doing that. It’s tough for anyone to make their thoughts public. :)

    • AnonGirl

      Thank you :)

    • JLH1986

      It was very brave. It speaks about who you are that you’re willing to do this. Kudos!

    • AnonGirl

      *hugs*
      I’m really, really glad that you’re finding this piece to be more positive and actually worth having been contributed. YOU are the part of the audience I wrote it for, and I’m happy that it resonated with you :)

    • JLH1986

      I hope you keep writing, even if it’s not for public consumption. I found it well written and an excellent jumping off point to open dialogue with loved ones. I even printed it off to show some of the client’s families. :)

    • AnonGirl

      Oh wow, this is actually amazingly uplifting! Thank you!

    • Katia

      I hope you will feel better, as others have said , it must have been hard to put this out and have to defend it. I liked it and it doesn’t have to be all encompassing, it’s only 2 pages and more a personal piece then a medical one, though I can see why even a personal piece would have people commenting as suicide is such a scary thing. Anyways I just want to say I liked your writing and wish you the best.
      Especially liked the little blurb at the end about the things that make you happy=) very sweet

    • pineapplegrasss

      This comment thread actually gave me a shitty end of my work day as I had to go home and leave it unresolved. I’m pretty sure that anything I say to you at this point will just upset you, but so be. I went back and re-read your article, and the comments etc. and I stand by my statement that I wasn’t disrespectful to you. I was truly kind of taken aback by your reaction, but I guess that goes with the territory. In my personal and professional opinion, and I’m giving this mostly for any mom that stumbles upon this in the future, or who’s following now, that is looking for help, self-harm is a big big big warning sign of big big troubles, like the ones you’ve expressed. I’m not going to analyze you or your personal upbringing or your personal mental illness. I do hope you are still in treatment. And although every case is different I strongly believe that it is a parents job to force, yes force, treatment. Yes, I know you can’t make them open up to a counselor or psychiatrist, but if you don’t drag them down there and plop them in the seat in front of that professional then you are doing your child a huge disservice by not taking care of whatever’s going on. And yes, you can force a child to take medication for mental health if its needed. Would you not give your diabetic child an insulin shot daily because they were scared of the needle? You stated how tough mental illness is, and I agree, and it can not be met with ‘gentle nudging’s’ to stop cutting or ‘gentle suggestions’ to attend therapy. Sorry, this piece is from the point of view of a mentally ill person, and yes, is very helpful insight for a parent as to what a child may be feeling, but is bad advice.

    • AnonGirl

      “This comment thread actually gave me a shitty end of my work day as I had to go home and leave it unresolved.”
      Very comparable to having someone start crying because of what you wrote.

      “I was truly kind of taken aback by your reaction, but I guess that goes with the territory.”
      A.k.a. the classiest and most roundabout way of calling someone a nutter. A+.

      ” I do hope you are still in treatment.”
      No, I’m not, and I’m starting to be thankful for that.

      “And although every case is different I strongly believe that it is a parents job to force, yes force, treatment. ”
      Hoo boy, I could start a whole ‘nother comment thread just in regards to this. For the sake of brevity though, I won’t.

      “Sorry, this piece is from the point of view of a mentally ill person,
      and yes, is very helpful insight for a parent as to what a child may be feeling, but is bad advice.”
      Please proceed to write and submit your own, you professional person you, or write an email to Eve to have this piece taken down. I’ll bring in the popcorn for the whole comment section if you do.

    • pineapplegrasss

      You should probably stop, you’re just making yourself look bad, and taking away from anything positive that you might have had to give. You can say whatever you want, I won’t comment again. I’m not even interested anymore.

    • AnonGirl

      Bon voyage to you as well, and all the wind up your sails.

    • Blueathena623

      For the record, I will say that as far as I know and my experiences, yes, self-harm can be a symptom of a bigger problem. I can’t speak for everyone, everyone has different experiences obviously, but I am agreeing with you on this.

    • Katia

      I liked your article and I think you should accept this criticism of it (not that it’s necessarily right, I don’t know) as a legitimate discussion point not an attack
      I don’t have experience in the subject but your article was well written and made sense to me

    • AnonGirl

      Thank you. I’m glad you liked my article.

      I am open to criticism if it is respectful (as you can see, I am agreeing with different commenters on the points they make). However, it’s extremely annoying to be told by someone that they know what’s happening in your head better than you, when, as the matter of fact, you are your head’s sole inhabitant. It’s disrespectful at best and condescending at worst.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      People harm for many different reasons.

    • Kay_Sue

      I think you’re both right, actually.

      Anon is saying, “You do it no to kill yourself” while you’re saying, “You do it for relief”. For some folks that are suicidal, that relief is momentarily not feeling suicidal.

      I do think Anon should avoid blanket statements. Mental illness, self-harm, etc–they have a myriad of reasonings, each as valid as the next. Trying to put them in a “box” based on simply one’s personal experiences is honestly one of the worst things you can do for a post of this type.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      First of all, I am so sorry the comments are getting out of control! I hope you didn’t think I was attacking you personally! Self-harm is different for everyone. If there’s one thing I learned in hospitals and all the group therapy sessions, it was that every single harmer I have met had a unique reason for harming. A lot of people, as I see in the comments, seem to forget that.

      For my personal experience, it actually goes both ways. In a way, yes, it is non-suicidal behavior for me. However, when I am dissociated, I will make frantic efforts to verify I actually exist in this reality (I know how crazy that sounds, it’s because it is) and my skewed logic at that time leads to me doing things like “let’s try and open a vein because then we will know we’re real” which could be fatal.

      I’ve also had “accidents” with harming that could have ended my life.

      In my case, if my adoptive parents hadn’t intervened and forced treatment, I wouldn’t be here today. But it is different for every child. I think people are taking the article too much as a set in stone guideline, as you said below, and not as your personal experience and opinions. I am SO SO SORRY you have wound up hurt and in tears over this. I am sending you the biggest virtual hug!! It takes so much strength to talk about this kind of thing, I’m so sorry you have wound up having a bad experience!

      (I think my parents would agree that the scars are better than a dead me. I think I would take a supportive approach if my children were to harm themselves but I would also be firm about stopping ASAP)

    • Kay_Sue

      THIS! This gets all of my upvotes.

      I have watched some very near to me struggle with self-harm so badly that on several occasions, she’s had to get stitches. It terrifies me that some night I may get the call that she’s made a “mistake” (her words) and is no longer here, or that she’s used something dirty and gotten an infection. It’s a terrifying limbo. If she had continued to self-harm, if her parents had not stepped in, I know eventually she’d be gone, and that would be devastating for everyone that knows her.

    • AnonGirl

      Thank you :) Don’t worry, it’s definitely not your fault and I’m not thinking that you’ve attacked me personally. You don’t have to be sorry for other commenters either, you’re not them.

      I guess I know the feeling you’re speaking of, since I sometimes dissociate as well. I’m mostly a careful cutter though – 10 years of self-harm and not a single person IRL still found out (I suppose they’re being blissfully ignorant or are just not giving a single fuck). I do sometimes drink myself into a stupor though – but hey, the worst it ends in is an occasional vomitorium or a UTI. I does make me feel alive though, or think that I actually CAN feel something.

      I don’t trust my parents with making any decisions about my mental health, including interventions. I mean, we’re talking about a chick who called me a “fucking parasite” when I didn’t find a job at 15, and a dude who sided with a mentally and sexually abusive ex of mine. I’d rather monitor my own issues, thankeeverymuch. If it takes cutting/burning/whatever, then that’s what it takes.

      I have been thinking about writing more personal pieces, but I’m definitely not doing this, because I’m not here for wasting my time and effort on a very personal article that will be heavily criticized, picked apart and treated like I owe somebody nothing less than a masterpiece. I’d rather go to blahtherapy.com and spend several hours lending an ear to people who want to vent.

    • JLH1986

      As a therapist, you can’t force counseling. I’ve had several clients who were forced and unless there was a jail sentence over their heads, they sat there for an hour and said literally Hello and Goodbye, see you next week. Some clients when forced respond some don’t. It’s about knowing the client or family member or whomever.

    • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

      Oh, I totally agree. We had to go “shopping” per se for the right fit for me. When I found the right psychiatrist/therapist (she’s an angel, she does a little of everything) for me, well, we’ve been together for ten years now. Eleven actually? Twelve? A long ass time. Counseling can’t be forced, but if I hadn’t been forcefully hospitalized when I was, I wouldn’t be here.

    • JLH1986

      YES!! Sometimes it takes a long time to find a good fit. We all want to help but we’re human and have certain personalities and so do clients. Some people give up when they don’t “click” with a counselor and think therapy is garbage. It’s not it’s about finding that person you do “click” with and can build a real therapeutic bond with. I’m glad you found yours! :)

    • Kay_Sue

      This can’t be said enough, either. I’ve had friends that say, “I feel like I need someone to talk to, but I tried it and it just didn’t work.” Sometimes, you don’t click, and that connection is so critical.

    • JLH1986

      A quality connection means everything. You have to trust them to tell those things that you can’t tell the people you love most/best. You have to trust that they will help you find the right path, you have to trust that they will challenge you. Trust them to not tell others (they can’t, but people are justifiably skeptical at first). Just because someone is qualified doesn’t mean they are qualified for you (for a myriad of reasons from competency in a certain area to being a ‘good’ fit) I’m a pretty up front all the cards on the table counselor. Some clients love this and appreciate it and connect. Others find me harsh or too direct or think I’m being mean when I’m saying but this didn’t work lets try something new. And that’s ok. I want people to get healthy not for everyone to want me to be their counselor.

    • Kay_Sue

      Exactly. Very well put too, I think better than I could have.

    • JLH1986

      hospitalization is different and that can be effective. Sometimes that’s necessary. but counseling? not so much.

  • Samantha Wilt

    I’m a therapist and love this. I’m going to bookmark it to share with my clients. My only critique is that you don’t need to just look for a psychologist. Many therapists are actually social workers (what? social workers don’t just take kids away?). Psychologists typically are trained to look at the person and what is functioning differently with them to act the way they do, while social workers are trained to take a wider approach and look at both the individual client and their environment to help them find a solution. Basically, seek a therapist, not a particular discipline. ;-)

    • JLH1986

      Yay! Also some therapists practice a more holistic approach and incorporate things that are important to each client (spirituality, mindfulness etc.) Plus…Therapists/Counselors, are usually more affordable and more accessible.

    • Guest

      Így?

    • Guest
    • AnonGirl

      Thank you :)
      I live in Europe, so I actually didn’t know that in North America, the social workers can qualify as therapists. I think it’s pretty damn amazing!

  • Maddi Holmes

    I think the only one I sort of disagree with a little bit is not forcing treatment on your child. If it weren’t for my mother blatantly forcing me to see a psychologist, I probably would be dead today. I don’t think it’s okay for a parent to force certain things but I also don’t think the parent should let their child fall deeper and deeper into their disorder.

    • Roberta

      I think that that is where the fine line needs to be drawn. Several of my friends chose to come to me as depressed over the years. I encouraged them to get help, and they got it on their own with support.

      But that one friend that made it clear she is going to kill herself? Nope, you sound the alarm on that one right away. Mind you, these were all cases of depression. In cases of bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc, there are different guidelines.

    • AnonGirl

      This this this.

  • Kay_Sue

    While I agree with this for young children and into adolescence, I do believe there is a point where a parent has to say, “You have to get treatment. You have to do what’s best for yourself. I can’t do this anymore.”

    I have a very dear friend that has battled mental illness for years. She’s 22, consistently goes off her medication and self-mutilates. She’s had to be withdrawn from school on a medical leave, and has been out for two years. She lives with her parents, doesn’t work, and has no expenses because they cover them all. In the initial time after her diagnosis, her parents got her the best treatment available in their area. They put together a team of psychologists/psychiatrists, they researched treatments with her, they listened to her and what she wanted. They met with her team whenever she allowed it and carefully followed whatever recommendations they were given.

    As time wore on, and they sunk more and more money into treatments not covered by their insurance, only to watch her ignore her doctor’s advice, not take her medications, burn through any spending money they gave her, the emotional toll on them and their marriage was astronomical. Her mother lost big clumps of her hair, down to her eyebrows. They fought constantly over what was best for her.

    Finally, they did have to lay down the law and say that she had to follow her treatment plan or they would have to go through the process of involuntarily committing her and perhaps gaining conservatorship. The expectation that she could and would learn to cope with her mental illness was the impetus she needed to really commit to her treatment, and she’s well on her way to a healthy life. (I’d say normal, but normal is relative. ;))

    My point is: Sometimes, parents DO have to force the hands of their children. Not at 10, I’d say not at 15 or 18. But at some point, you do have to be willing to say, “You have to commit to living well.”

    • jessica

      It is a very tough thing caring about and caring for someone who has a mental illness, especially those that often cause the person to harm themselves (and I don’t just mean literally harm like with a knife but also substance abuse, avolition which is common among schizophrenics, etc.) And I agree with all that you’ve said especially the “It all depends on the kid, the circumstances, and the illness” part. So true. Sometimes intervention, even against the person’s will, is needed. Other times, it isn’t. It really depends.

    • Kay_Sue

      Different people with different afflictions just have such varied reactions. There’s some people that will never work towards coping and living well without that push.

  • K

    Unfortunately as bad as the stats are for adults who get treatment, it’s even worse for kids. It’s estimated that 70% of kids don’t get the mental health care they need. That’s part if why I’m planning on going into child psychology. I originally thought I wanted to work with young kids but I’m finding that I love working with teenagers.

  • VINERI_13