As a parent of a child with a mental illness, I find that many times I shy away from sharing my story. I worry about being judged or criticized by people who do not understand mental illness in children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
I recently attended a conference. One of the sessions was about sharing your story. During the session, a mom shined a light on what it is like to live with a child who has a severe mental illness and reactive attachment disorder. She did not gloss over the scary parts for the non-parent professionals in the room. She shared from her heart.
And that touched me in a way that made me more secure in sharing my child’s story. And made me rethink telling my story.
Mental illness does not only affect the child. It affects the siblings, the extended family, and friends. Sometimes you lose friends along the way.
It’s important to find new friends that do not judge. Friends that understand the depth of our child’s needs. They offer us a new perspective on the joys and challenges of raising a child with a mental illness. We can enjoy our unique family without the worry of judgment. And not feel so alone!
I hope that more parents realize their voice matters. Shining a light on mental illness can help everyone. Including our children who live with it. Our lived experiences are very important to share. The more we share, the less stigma there will be.
This page on children with mental health and disabilities offers more information.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.