You are NOT Alone

As I begin to create my place within the social work profession and the field of mental health, I have noticed that a specific population is not being addressed or shown concern within the United States: children and adolescents of parents with a mental illness.

I fall into this category.

The reason I feel compelled to shed light onto this population is because, at the moment, no one is. No one is addressing the fact that children are impacted by parents with a mental illness.

As a child and as an adolescent, I was not fully aware of what depression was. I did not understand what it meant when my parent told me they had depression. All I understood was that it was difficult for them to get out of bed (but didn’t understand why) and noticed that they were not laughing or smiling as much as they use to (but I didn’t know what changed). There were no clear or concise answers to explain.

The knowledge of what mental illness was, at the time, was not understood until I was in an undergraduate psychology course during my freshman year. From the time my parent told me that they were experiencing depression until the time I learned fully what it was, eight years had passed. It is not the fault of my parent or family members for not having explained further; I believe it was the stigma surrounding mental illness that prevented them from explaining further. It is still the stigma that prevents the uncomfortable discussions, like that one so many years ago, from occurring even today (maybe until now). I also think that my family wanted to protect me from the truth of our reality.

Even after having learned what depression and mental illness was at the age of 18, five more years passed until I learned about two amazing resources that would have been helpful for me. The two resources that can assist children and adolescents in gaining a clearer understanding about what their parent(s) and family is experiencing is an Australian’s national initiative called Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

1. The Australian initiative called Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPMI) promotes support and resources for children of parents who are experiencing a mental illness (COPMI, 2012). To learn more information and have access to their resources, check out the website at www.copmi.net.au.

2. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers support groups for (1) spouses and partners, (2) families and friends, or (3) parents who have a child who is experiencing a mental illness. However, there are no support groups for only children of parents with a mental illness (NAMI, 2013). For more information about the resources and support groups that NAMI provides, please visit their website at www.nami.org to find a location near you. 

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5 thoughts on “You are NOT Alone

  1. Pingback: A personal story about mental illness |

  2. Thank you, fellow bloggers, for liking my entries. It means a lot to know that I am being positively reinforced for being vulnerable and transparent. I hope you continue to read and enjoy what I have to share.

  3. Thank u for sharing your intellect and your personal stories. I am currently working with a minor who’s mom is bipolar and mentally challenged and I can see how negatively this has impacted my client. We set him up with a therapist to help him over come witnessing his father’s death (he died of a severe seizure while sleeping) and I am working with him to try to help him learn to interact with others and teach him the basics because his parents never sent him to school. He’s nine yrs old and does not know his colors, alphabet, or what a bed is called, he calls morning “the time when foster mom tells me to ‘wake up mijo’ after the time i slept” im trying to set him up with a mentoring program as well to help him in school because he’s been having difficulties with bullying. This up coming week will be my third visit with him…
    Mental illness has also impacted my family, I know I shared with you about my sister. It is extremely challenging and difficult to comprehend how hard it can be on the family of those who suffer from mental illness, especially if we haven’t experienced it personally. Your blog provides a transparent and very candid view of this. Keep up the good work! looking forward to continue reading and following your entries 🙂

    • Thank you Gloria for your kind words. I highly suggest taking a look at the COPMI website for information on how to help your client cope with his mother’s mental illness (if that’s an issue of concern for you). It sounds like there may be much more dire concerns such as cognitive and learning impairments. I look forward to talking with you sometime about your experiences, if you don’t mind. There is strength in numbers.

  4. Pingback: Coping with a Mentally Ill Parent (or child) | Jeannine K. Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

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