Being a parent of a child with a mental illness can be challenging. You might not know where to get help or what to do for your child. As parents, you want what is best for your child. Society continues to uphold stigmas against people with mental illnesses. While you want to get your child the best help, you might fear how being labeled as “mentally ill” might affect your child. Mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others are treatable. While these illnesses do not have a cure, many people have learned to thrive with their mental illness. Successful treatment of mental illness requires support, a positive outlook, and honesty.
Getting a Diagnosis
During the “Beyond Risk and Back” episode “The Audacity of Happiness: Having a Child with Mental Illness,” guest Gabrielle Giacomazzo discusses her experiences with having a daughter with a mental illness. She reminds parents that a diagnosis is just “words on a piece of paper.” Your child is not their diagnosis. Your child has strengths, personality, and interests. Their life does not need to be limited or defined by a mental health diagnosis. Instead, the diagnosis informs the treatment approaches that you and your child can explore together to get them the best support. Treatment is more important than the “words” doctors use to describe the diagnosis. Remember to focus on your child’s strengths when treating mental illness. They might feel less valuable with a label of mental illness. Be sure to encourage them by supporting their core strengths and interests!
Informed Treatment Is Best
If a doctor describes your child as having a mental illness, ask questions! Learn as much as you can from your doctor and other professionals. When you engage in a conversation with your doctor or psychiatrist, you can learn about treatment options and different approaches. Many people think that once a label of mental illness is given to their child, they might be doomed to a life of difficulty and hopelessness. When you learn more about mental illness and advocate for the best treatment, you can help your child in these early stages of their illness. Your child will thrive better with their mental illness when they learn coping skills and strategies early on in treatment.
Teaching Advocacy to Your Child
When you are advocating for your child, you teach them to stand up for themselves and seek the best treatment. As your child gets older and enters adulthood, they will need to advocate for their mental health needs and treatment. When your child sees you asking questions and doing research, they can learn from your example. You can also encourage your child to learn about their medications (if prescribed), their illness, and treatment options. For effective treatment with medications, your child will need to understand what the medication is supposed to be doing for them. When your child is knowledgeable about their symptoms and treatment, they can then honestly evaluate how they feel about the treatment options.
Being Honest About Treatment
Honesty is essential when treating mental illness. You and your child might feel shame about some of the behaviors or other issues that occur in your home. Treatment will be most effective when you can honestly present information to your team about how current medications, therapies, and other approaches are working. Without fostering open and honest communication, your child might be engaging in a treatment process that is not working. You may need to try different options or tweak your current approaches. Your treatment team does not get a full picture of your child when they come into the office for a quick check-in or medication review. Share your observations about your child’s mental health and encourage your child to be fully engaged in any follow-up appointments.
Getting Support From Others
You and your child are not alone! Many other people are currently going through similar struggles and can support you through the process. Talk with other parents in support groups or other family workshops. You can learn from one another to figure out what treatment is best for your children. You can also help one another to remain positive that things will change for the better. The struggles you and your child are going through now can lead to positive growth and change. Listen to success stories from those who have thrived with their mental illness. Things do get better! Continue to support and love your child through this difficult time as they work through these challenges to become happy and healthy adults.
When your child has a mental illness, you may feel confused or unsure of what to do. As a parent, you want to be there for your kids in the best way that you can. Mental illnesses can be challenging to treat and can burden the whole family system. You and your child are not alone! Many other people have been through similar struggles and recovery from mental illness is possible. People have learned techniques and treatments that have enabled them to thrive with their mental illness. There is hope for your child. If you and your family are struggling with a teen with mental illness, help is available. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment Center offers not only treatment but advice and guidance for parents. You can connect with other parents at our workshops while your child is being treated. We are here to make your family’s fire burn brightest! Call us today at (303) 443-3343.