Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

What Mental Health Professionals Want Parents of Children With Mental Health Issues to Know

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.”  - Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

When first asked this question, I couldn’t help but to think about one of the most extraordinary women I have encountered during my time in this profession. I think about this woman’s journey, and I can only describe her as “a woman made of iron.”

When I first met Jane, I sat with her in her home and listened to her explain her journey and what circumstances had brought her to the doors of a mental health facility. She explained there was a history of mental illness that ran in her family, and she explained the current situation she was facing with her children. She reported feeling hopeless and lost – as if she had failed as a parent, as a mother, and as a daughter all at one time. As we spoke she described the many responsibilities she carried on a daily basis. This woman had been on a journey that led her to abuse, heartache, pain, and uncertainty. She explained that she was seeking services for her family and wanted to find a solution to what she described as an “impossible situation.” In all of the ways that Jane described herself, what I heard was not what I saw. I saw someone courageous, strong, steadfast, and fearless.

This brings me to responding to the question: What do I wish parents of children with mental health issues would know when they first come to us for services?

  1. Just because your journey has brought you to our doors, it does not mean you have failed. It does not mean you have failed as a parent, as a person, or as a loved one. It means you have found the courage and strength to step out onto a road that can lead you towards recovery.
  2. Recovery means something different to every single person that passes through our doors. It can be defined as: eating dinner as a family; holding onto a job; or getting better grades. I want families to understand that successes are defined differently, and together we can move towards them.
  3. I would want families to know that there is no room for judgment within mental health services. No one is holding a person’s stories and life experiences up to some standard of perfection. The staff I know understand that no family or person is perfect, and that is not expected. I want families to be able to speak without fear of being judged and to know their voice matters. I know that seeking services may be one of the hardest things you have ever done.
  4. Families need to know their child or loved one is seen as more than a diagnosis. They are seen as individuals with strengths, needs, and abilities. We mental health professionals will identify their needs and, together, we will make a tailored, individualized plan for recovery.
  5. This is a caring environment, and I hope families will feel secure in sharing their stories and will express themselves without fear, shame, or guilt. After seeking mental health services, I want you and your family to feel empowered, not discouraged or defeated.

Parents and children might describe their roads to recovery as difficult, strenuous, uncertain, and hopeless. However, by accessing mental health services, this same road can become clear, defined, and hopeful. Taking the road does require great strength and a tremendous amount of courage, but through the support of family, friends, professionals, and the community, you and your child really can do it.


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