Mental Health Blogs

Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

I’ve long been a fan of the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If.”

If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you…

I can relate to this verse. I’m sure all parents of mentally ill children can. Often the greatest challenge we face is not going stark raving mad ourselves. road

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you…
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting…
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…

Being the parent of a bipolar child has not made me popular. My child has been passed over for parties and had his own invitations declined. Other parents who only know my child by the stories they hear from their own kids are quick to label him as a bad seed. And if he’s a bad seed, surely he must come from bad parents.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

We all have high hopes for our kids. When your child is diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s hard to come to terms with the impact of the diagnosis on those hopes. Should you continue to worry about paying for college, or just focus on getting him through high school?

If you can …watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools…

Undoubtedly, the hardest part of parenting any child is the hurt we suffer when they suffer. Our children tend to suffer more, and there are few (if any) rewards to soothe their suffering.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss…

I try not to think of all the prescriptions I’ve filled in the past five years. Particularly the ones I refill—at full market price—only to have the psychiatrist a day later agree they are not working and here, try this instead, and no, it’s not available as a generic. And it may not work either. But let’s hope for the best.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you…

People fear what they don’t understand. Many people don’t understand mental illness. Some of them are closer than you think—friends and family members you never expected to do or say hurtful things.

Kipling’s words paint a disheartening portrait of the world—not unlike the world we face daily as parents. But at the end, he offers this as inspiration—if you can survive all this adversity,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it

helpingWhich perfectly describes those moments when we are proud of our kids…when we feel like we’re doing right by them…when we haven’t lost our temper or cried in front of them…you know, the good days.

I wish all of us more of those.

This entry was posted in Bipolar Child, Parenting Child with Mental Illness, Psychiatric Medication, Stigma Mental Illness and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

92 Responses to Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

  1. LaQueta says:

    My step daughter has become a danger to herself and others. In the last two years she has tried to kill a family pet, subjected herself to a great deal of self harm (cutting, etc.), threatened to hurt us with a knife, and staged a suicide attempt. (We had her taken to the hospital via ambulance because we believed her. All tox-screens came back negative.) Previous to this she bullied children at school, resulting in our feeling the need to home school her, and she stole large sums of money from other family members. In the last 4 months, she has been hospitalized for severe mental illness 3 times. (It should be noted she was abused in a number of ways in her biological Mother’s home, resulting in my husband and I gaining full custody of her and her older sister.) The psychiatrists at the hospital are concerned by her continuing out of control behavior, because the events she is staging are getting grossly out of control.

    Here’s the problem: We are scared for our lives. This last time she went to the hospital, she had become angry with me for blowing drying my hair. She then faked a suicide attempt. Then, because she didn’t feel she got enough attention for this issue, she made up new issues (with her health) which we had to pay for because no one ever consults the parents when a child complains. Then, when the hospital staff finally figured out what they were dealing with, she changed her method of attention seeking to making wild allegations toward us and various other family members, resulting in investigations from child services. (The investigator chose to end the investigation after the interviews, realizing how sick our daughter is.) When the hospital deems her “okay” to come home again, we are afraid of what she will do next! Is there anything we can do to protect ourselves, while still caring for her? This has been 10 years of absolute hell and we really need help badly.

  2. Holly says:

    My mother had bipolar disorder and was abusive and never medicated. When my son began to have tantrums at age 4 that lasted for over an hour, I did not understand what this would ultimately mean for both of us. At 14 he began to use drugs and alcohol and I replaced many broken windows. His anger outbursts reminded me of my mother’s outbursts. Sadly, because of my past, I could not always respond to his behavior with calmness. He will be relased from prison in a year, 23 years old now and having spent much of his time since age 16 in facilities, lockdown, jail and prison. He says he is intstitutionalized. I know that he wants to do well. I have experienced many losses as a single parent and professional in a small town with a mentally ill child. It has been quite lonely. I have pretty much come to terms that I can love, guide and hope for him, but ultimately he makes his own choices. Thank you for the poem, it gives me hope.

  3. Rita Sarkhel says:

    Ultimately love wins all. Love them no matter what and they will come around or do better. My own personal experience.

  4. Kate says:

    I am just joining this journey — my lovely, wonderful, scarily brilliant son started showing signs of depression when he hit adolescence, and he has spiraled down into severe depression, a few suicide attempts, and he no longer goes to school, leaves his room. I grieve the child who was a mountain biking fiend, great musician… who now does nothing at all, and no medication works, and all I see is an angry, sad child who no longer makes sense or thinks straight, and he grows worse every week. Like many here, I have spent years with doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and watched my bank account disappear. My question is, how do we deal with the grief? How do we turn from terror to acceptance? I feel I cannot help him anymore, as my grief overwhelms me. Do we all look at those happy families with happy kids and say, but…. that’s what I want?

  5. denise says:

    Thank you for sharing the poem and your story.

    I adopted my daughter at 4 1/2 years of age. I didn’t quite grasp what I was getting into then. We have spent the last 11 years in therapy,doctor’s office…I’ve lost jobs because of the amount of work I’ve missed due to all of this. Recently – we just completed the Nerophysological exam. Going into the meeting I thought – here we go again – spending all this time and getting no answers. I couldn’t of been farther from the truth. Finally a test/doctor who got it right – and the answer was scarier than I could of ever imagined. Phsziofrenia/Borderline personality disorder/bi-polar and FASD. The doctor opened the appt. with “You have a very sick child here”. I’ve been saying that for years – why did it take 11 of them to finally get some answers? And over the last year my daughter is getting worse every single day is a roller coaster ride. After our appt. I was in shock…and now like Kate -I’m in grief…the reality that we’re more than likely not going to be able to help this child breaks my heart–all that time and money – and had the doctor’s just listened to me – we could of identified this sooner. They now say she’s to far gone. I’m not giving up – but I also know I’m at a point now where I personally can’t help this child anymore. What is also so frustrating is that you know you only have short windows of opportunity to get them help…and it takes MONTHS to get anything accomplished…When time is so critical…why is there no way to speed up the processes? I’ts all enough to make you as mentally ill as your child is.

    Peace – peace /pēs/Noun
    Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.

    May you all find it someday….


  6. darrell says:

    I read this after searching very long, trying to find help for a very close friend. She is a single mom, with a son, 10yo, who has serious mentally ill issues. He has been tested for bipolar, neg. ADHD…pos, but really, the child is completely unconttrollable. He is combatitive, has attacked his mother physically numerous times, police called multiple times. Has been placed in two different schools to help deal with him..programs designed to deal with kids with emo problems. Nothing changes. Twice he has been 5150, locked up for weeks at a time…they change the meds, send him home…behavior returns within weeks. She has studied on diet, supplements, taking parenting classes, they have no less than three counselors they see. She attends a local church…anything, to try to get this child help. At this point, I feel the child, is mentally ill, and is not controlable for her, esp by herself. It is a horrible accident just waiting to happen. She lives in CA, and frankly, there isnt much help for her. At this point she is considering surrendering the child to the state, however, knows that this isnt getting the child help…but, at the same time, she is breaking down mentally, as this has been going on since he was five. ANY suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Laurieann says:

    Hi My Step Daughter is bipolar type 2. That I can handle its the extreme depression, sleeping all the time, not wanting to be social, being a prisoner in my home for I have to babysit her all day, she will drink anything and I mean anything if she thinks there is alcohol in it. She has drank rubbing alcohol, hair spray, nail polish remover. I ask her why she wants to be drunk, she cuts too. She is on meds and getting help. I need help, I need support. I wonder if I should put her in the hospital again. Giving her everything she wants besides alcohol doesn’t help her depression any. She is very rebellious and I think didn’t grow up with any rules and i’m left to deal with it. I’m afraid to make too many rules I don’t’ want her to try to kill herself again. I do not know how to handle all this any info or support would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Josephine North says:

    I have a friend who is in a similar situation. Her daughter is about forty and has been dianosed as schizophrenic years ago.

    She was stopped by the police recently and they said she had been drinking. She is in a regular jail and assaulted a guard so her sentence has been upped from 6 months to 9 months.
    My friend has spent a fortune on her giving her about a $1000 a month and buying her cars etc.

    She has also spent a lot on attorneys. Even if she gets out of jail what will happen then? My friend is paying her rent whilst she is inside the jail. I’d have thought there would be special facilities available where people with this illness can live and be treated. And be happy as their medications would be dispensed and therefore thay can keep the person biochemically in an acceptable state so the people suffering from this can lead a fairly normal life with supervision. Does anyone know anything about this type of place please? This has taken a huge toll on my friends life and she is struggling financially too. She doesn’t know what to do.

  9. Morgan says:

    My daughter was 18 when our hell began and she is 24 now. We have had her institutionalized several times. First they told us she was bipolar, then just angry, now she has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. She had a child that we ended up adopting because she was showing signs of muchausins by proxy (harming the baby to get attention for herself). She was very sexually active and got two sexually transmitted diseases. She married a guy she met in AA after 9 days and then got pregnant again, this time the baby died at 5 months. She has stolen money from us and other family members, she is also a drug addict and alcoholic. We love her but we have literally had enough. When is it ok to allow yourself to just let them go? Everyone keeps saying get her help. We have tried, she won’t take the meds she says other drugs (pot, cocaine etc) and the alcohol make her feel better than the prescription drugs. We have had her in therapy and we are tired. When is it ok to focus on us and the child we are raising and to just let whatever happens to her happen? I am so fed up with all of it. I know mental illness is bad but what about the people who are left having to pick up all the peices? I keep reading things that make me feel guilty for wanting to just have no contact with her at all but I am afraid for my family and our safety more than I am afraid of her being homeless. We have been dealing with this for 7 years now and we don’t want to deal with it anymore. Does that make me a horrible mom? Someone please respond.

  10. Josephine North says:

    I have a friend who is in a similar situation. Her daughter is about forty and has been diagnosed as schizophrenic years ago.

    She was stopped by the police recently and they said she had been drinking. She is in a regular jail and assaulted a guard so her sentence has been upped from 6 months to 9 months.
    My friend has spent a fortune on her giving her about a $1000 a month and buying her cars etc.

    She has also spent a lot on attorneys. Even if she gets out of jail what will happen then? My friend is paying her rent whilst she is inside the jail. I’d have thought there would be special facilities available where people with this illness can live and be treated. And be happy as their medications would be dispensed and therefore they can keep the person biochemically in an acceptable state so the people suffering from this can lead a fairly normal life with supervision. Does anyone know anything about this type of place please? This has taken a huge toll on my friend’s life and she is struggling financially too. She doesn’t know what to do.

  11. Michelle Rovira says:

    I have a son that is now 21 yrs old. He was diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 13. It was not easy being his parent but I continued to seek help and love him unconditionally. As the years went by, he became more violent and scary to live with. I had to call the police out many times. Being a minor, there was nothing they could do. He has been in different rehab homes but eventually would get kicked out for his violent behavior. He has multiple personalities. I never know what he is going to do next. He switches personalities on me in a blink of an eye. He is now homeless, and my heart is so broken when I see him. He lives outside of reality and I am so afraid to let him come home. Do you have any advice for me?

  12. teresa says:

    I have come to hate my adult bipolar daughter. She is making stupid choices. In October, she was arrested by police after a dispute. She blames the arresting officers for not getting her help. She is now looking at a felony.

    I paid 3000 I did not have. Her father would not help. Yet she still calls the asshole everyday despite him being nasty to her on the phone.

    Now she and her girlfriend have gotten a dog from Petco for 150 yet they had no crate.

  13. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hi Kate,

    This is a tough journey and I can’t imagine what it has been like for you to see your child go from the boy you knew to the young man suffering with depression. Looking at other families may help in the moment, but remember no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. It sounds like you’ve been pouring everything you have into helping your son recover, but my question is what have you done for yourself? Dealing with grief or turning terror into acceptance are two things you can work on in your own therapy. Even a support group with other parents of mentally ill children might be helpful to you. As a practicing clinician, I know that it is important for me first to practice good self-care. But, I feel even more strongly that parents need self-care, too. How are you taking care of you? You deserve that care just as much as your son does. I’m sorry to hear that your son is suffering so much. But, you’re suffering too. So much that I can feel it in your words. Please take care of you and get the support you need to overcome your grief. I lean on supportive friends and family as well as attend my own therapy. (As an aside, I’m going to therapy for my own wellness and not because of my son.) It doesn’t need to be long-term, but just long enough to help you work through your grief. Because at the end of the day, standing up for myself helps me be a support to my son. I hope this helps and please feel free to visit anytime.

  14. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hi Darrell,

    Thanks for stopping by the blog. First I must say, you’re a very good friend. It is good to hear that she has a support in you. It sounds like she has been having a very tough journey for several years and it sounds like she’s reached her limits based on what you’ve shared. My suggestion for your friend is that she find a therapist for herself as you wrote that she is breaking down mentally. I’m currently based in NYC so I really can’t offer insight into what she could do in California as I’m not familiar with the laws there. Especially since it’s not clear what his diagnosis is or what he’s seeing the three therapists for. Surrendering him to the state is an option, but she needs to explore what the process is about. She could start by speaking with each counselor to see what they suggest and she can do her own research with the school social worker to see what other options are available to her. I wish her the best and hope that you continue to be a great support for her. I hope this helps.

  15. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hi Laurieann. Thank you for reading the blog. It sounds like you’re dealing with so much from your stepdaughter. If we could put our kids in a bubble to protect them, I’m sure many parents would do it. I know I would. Keep everything unsafe out. But, that’s not reality. It sounds like you are your stepdaughter’s bubble. One question I have is where are her parents? Parenting is hard, but even harder without support. I wonder where is your support system. Who else is helping you with your stepdaughter? It sounds like she needs a higher level of care than what she is receiving now. The reasons you list – sleeping all the time, isolating herself, drinking anything with alcohol on it, cutting herself, trying to kill herself – are serious. It sounds like the medication and help (you didn’t specify what treatment she is getting) are not working well for her or for you. It seems like you really love this child as your own. But, you need to share the burden with her parents. A lack of support is tough on anyone, especially on the parents of mentally ill children. Find support for you either through groups or individual therapy. And have a discussion with her parents about her treatment. I wish you the best and hope this helps.

  16. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hi Morgan,

    After reading your story, I just want to wrap you up in a warm hug. This does NOT make you a horrible mother. It makes you a human being. You are a human being with needs, wants, frustrations and difficulties of your own. It sounds like your daughter is not ready to care for herself in healthy way. And as an adult, she legally can’t be made to do anything she does not want to do. It sounds like you’ve gone above and beyond for her even adopting your grandchild! You’re an amazing person, Morgan please remind yourself of that everyday. If your family is in immediate danger because of your daughter, then you need to do what’s best for your family. Please know that you’re in my thoughts.

  17. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hi Michelle. My heart goes out to you. Your heart is broken because your son is still your baby. And he always will be. But, loving a child does not mean that you should live in fear of that child. My advice to you is to find support. I advocate support for parents because it really does take a village. Support can be in the form of friends, family, teachers, counselors – anyone who can uplift you when you’re feeling down. Support can also mean seeing a therapist to help you work through this. I can’t speak to working with adults because I treat children. Unfortunately, it is much harder to treat adults because anyone age 18 and older (at least here in NYC) can refuse treatment. I wish I could do more. Please visit again soon.

  18. relentless mom says:

    I read this thread of so many parents and loved ones crying out for help for their children and themselves. My heart just aches, as I have my own journey. What’s so sad is that there is so much more help out there but it is next to impossible to find it or get it. My husband and I are both psychotherapists and still it took 4 years to get adequate care for our son!!!

    This journey has prepared me to help friends and clients in their pursuit of the right care for their kiddos because we’ve seen so much of how our system and some professionals fail us. With a healthcare system largely set up to limit care and many professionals not able to be helpful it’s an uphill battle. Socially society can be empathetic but then there are those who make it worse for grieved parents by judging, attacking, and not supporting them when they are the most vulnerable! We need support too, and should be receiving it!

    I have been relentless in pursuing care for our son in any and every possible way. We had to have breaks and times of regrouping, and regaining our strength. We’ve had seasons of feeling like the professionals don’t have what our son needs. The bottom line is that there are answers for everyone. All too often those are not found or provided. One child I know of took fish oil daily and it totally solved his severe symptoms! Not my son! It’s been a complex puzzle and he does not respond well to medication though he has to have it. As parents and friends we can only do so much. But we can keep hoping and praying for a turn of events for those who won’t get help. This was never supposed to happen to my son!!! (Your child)

    I watch the stories unfold of troubled kids shooting up others with the realization that most Americans don’t know the danger signs and how to insist on the right help for the child and for themselves. I see why things happen, and how easy it is to misundstand the mentally ill child’s behaviors and the natural reaction to them. I see how high functioning autism fuels the symptoms in some cases and how the child with mood and or thought disorders are so misunderstood and help is not obtained until its too late. Well there is always tomorrow and its never too late to get help. My thing is that we have to be relentless in our pursuit of the right care along with self care so we can keep going. Most people don’t know that there is more help and accept that there is nothing more anyone can do. That is never true. Yet when you don’t have the choice as they become adults it sure cuts down on what you have the power to influence.

    You parents are to be commended for your love and sacrifice with blood, sweat and tears no matter the result. We hope to see great reform in our mental health care system in the years to come. I just scanned Australia’s mental health care reform roadmap for 2012-2022. What an inspiration!

    Sincerely, Anne – relentless mom

  19. Heiddi Zalamar says:

    Hello Anne,

    Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story. Parenting a child with mental illness is incredibly hard. Not only because you have to learn to navigate the system, but also help your child manage with the diagnosis and work through your own feelings about everything. I’m so glad that your son has such a relentless mom as you to help him. And how blessed your family, friends and clients are to have you. I agree that we have to be relentless in the pursuit of the best care for our children as well as practicing good self-care. Thanks for sharing your story and your words of hope with the readers.

  20. Dee says:

    I’m 52, educated, and “normal”. I’m raising two grandchildren ages 11 (boy) and 9 (girl). I adopted them eight years ago when they were abandoned by both parents. I did a lot of praying and soul searching first because I knew what I was getting into, but I really had no choice.
    My daughter (their mother) was in and out of rehab as a teenager, in constant therapy, in trouble with the school and the law, on drugs and alcohol, and bringing strangers into my house. She had three felony convictions by the time she was 21. She now supports herself with prostitution. When she was a child, I did everything I could do to help her. A therapist would treat her for a while only to turn us away. Finally, when she was 18, one of her psychiatrist told me that she was a sociopath and that there was no treatment, no cure.
    So, when my daughter told me that she was pregnant with her first child I cried. I could see the writing on the wall and I was already used up and defeated. She went on to have a second child because the state would give her more entitlements if she had more children.
    Of course she left them. Who didn’t see that coming? I haven’t heard from her in eight years. Now I’m right back where I started only this time I have two mentally ill, angry, aggressive children and I feel like I have nowhere to turn. What do you do when you have reached the end of yourself, there’s no help, and you still have the children? There’s no light at the end of this tunnel.

  21. Hi Dee,

    Thanks so much for coming by to check out the blog and share your experience. You are a strong and amazing person. Not only did you raise your daughter, you’ve also stepped in to raise your grandchildren. And while right now it is really hard, they’re very lucky to have you. If you feel you’ve reached the end of yourself, get connected. Building a support system is key not only for the children, but for you. Start from the beginning with small steps. Look for help through the pediatrician, school or through their insurance. It sounds as if they (and you) need support. With support, I feel people can get through so many challenges including parenting children with mental illness. I say this not only as a parent, but as a mental health professional. So many parents go through tough times feeling alone, but when they connect with other parents and like-minded people, the burden becomes a bit lighter. Another thing, I try not go go past this moment. If it is hard, then its only hard right now. That way I have hope to carry me through the next one. Feel free to stop by anytime to share because this is your place to do it. Hugs!


  22. Arlene Pettersen says:

    Thank you all for sharing. My 14 year old is severely angry, depressed, and has anxiety. He is hanging with a bad crowd, doing drugs, drinking, steals, vandalizes, has attempted suicide, cuts, and has recently become violent. He was hospitalized and is seeing a therapist. His psychiatrist has tried different drugs but we have seen bad side effects . The newest one does not work. We go in Monday to up the dosage or cha
    ge the drug. I am at my breaking point. Friends, family, and church don’t seem to understand . I am searching for a new therapist. The one we have now seems incapable.

  23. Jennifer says:

    My 19 year old daughter showed signs of mania as early two years old. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 9 after trying to jump out of a second floor window at school because she says a voive told her to jump. She has been hospitalized 7 times. She can’t keep friends, she steals from everyone, and she is permiscuous. She was diagnosed a month ago with Borderline Personality as well. Today is her 19th birthday and she has informed me that she is moving to California (we live in michigan) with a boy she just met a week ago. She does take medicine – she has since she was nine and she goes to therapy but she is getting worse. My husband and I are frightened and frustrated beyond belief. But reading all of your stories has lifted a sense of loneliness. I will keep on fighting for my daughter til the day I die. She deserves it and is worth it. Prayers to all of you!!

  24. Hi Arlene. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. After reading your comment, I sent up a prayer for you. I can only imagine how difficult your road has been so far. It sounds as if your son is in great pain. I’m glad that even though the medication isn’t working well, you’re working as a team with your son’s psychiatrist. While your friends, family and church acquaintances may not understand (believe me I KNOW!), you do have a psychiatrist that does. I’d ask the psychiatrist for a referral for a therapist. That way your team can grow to include someone you can rely on. Not all therapists are a good fit – for many different reasons (different training, specialty, gender, age,etc) so don’t rule out the current therapist. You can also speak to the therapist’s supervisor to clarify what treatment you would like and recommendations they think would help your son. I hope this helps and please come back soon to give an update if you can.

  25. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for stopping by to share. As a therapist, I have to say that developmentally, children are very active from ages 2 – on. Pretty much from when they are mobile. That being said, children are usually diagnosed from school-age on (5+up). The youngest child I’ve seen diagnosed with a mental illness has been age 4. It sounds very much that you’ve gone through a great deal with your daughter and she is so lucky to have you as her mom and advocate. From what you’ve described, she does have Borderline Personality Disorder. It sounds like she’s beginning to make her own choices about navigating her world. And at age 19, legally there is not much stopping her from doing so. Even though it is scary and frustrating, my advice to you is to be her support as long as she allows it. If she’s adamant about going to California, help her with insurance and to find a new treatment team. I’m glad that you were uplifted by the stories here. Thanks for sharing your kind words of prayer and please visit again soon.

  26. erica says:

    I have a 20 year old daughter who is suicide,she cuts, drinks bleach as well as overdoses and hears voices.
    I have been to see a specialist doctor who has prescribed her medication but it isn’t working. The voices are worse and she still has suicidal thoughts. As her mother I feel I’m losing my mind. I don’t know what to do. I want the voices to stop as I feel it would make her feel a little better. She hasn’t been diagnosed with any thing at the moment. I need help for me and her brother as we really at the end of our tether. I love my daughter unconditionally of course I do but I need these voices to stop.i need some1 to talk 2 maybe before I lose my mind I feel I cannot cope there is nothing worse for a mother to see her daughter so distressed its totally heart-breaking and breaking the whole family unit up.Any advice would help please.

  27. Hi Erica,

    I felt your pain as I read your comment today. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. As I’m based in the US, the best advice I can give you is to go back to the specialist you saw and try a different dosage of the same medication or another one entirely. If she is overdosing, it means she is self-medicating with other substances that are also interfering with the prescribed medication. It sounds as if your daughter may need to detox before her mental health needs can be addressed especially since she is overdosing. Medication is a very delicate matter in terms of treatment and must be closely monitored by a psychiatrist. Please know that you can also look for your local social services agency to help you manage your daughter’s treatment. Also understand that at 20 years old (unless legal age limits are different in the UK from the US legal age limits), your daughter is legally responsible for her own mental health needs. It sounds also that she lives at home with you and your son and her mental illness is tearing your family apart. Seek help with the psychiatrist who prescribed the medication and or if she is suicidal another option (though one you may not like) is to hospitalize her for her own safety. I hope this helps and please feel free to visit again soon!

  28. Summer says:

    Thank you for your comforting words… they echo the cries of my heart. I have 3 mentally ill daughters. They are 9, 8 & 6. I’ve been living in hell every day trying to keep them and myself safe. The oldest has run away, stolen from me, stabbed her sister with a pen, trashed my house etc etc. my middle has hit me & my husband, run away, trashed my house, broken furniture and been hospitalized for threatening suicide (etc etc). my youngest has tried to kill me by pushing me down the stairs, threatened suicide and basically is set on fire with rage over every little thing (etc etc etc). We have no idea what is wrong with the oldest (aside from severe OCD) but she definitley has traits of a sociopath… no remorse, no guilt, no compassion, no empathy. but she is also delayed in her physical, mental, emotional growth. My middle daughter, they say she has a “mood disorder” which is a broad term for “your guess is as good as mine.” They said she has ODD and its a possibly she has psychophrenia. And my youngest, who scares me the most, we still don’t know much more than that she may have ADHD. I am TERRIFIED of the years to come. Terrified of being murdered in my sleep, of them going to prison, of finding out what horrible things they might do to someone. For so long i thought it was my bad parenting that caused all this. Which it was made worse by my ignorance and inexperience seeing as my oldest was born a week after i turned 18. What I don’t understand is why there is no help for people like me… ? Every road to recovery we’ve gone down has been a dead end.

  29. Hello Summer,

    Thanks for stopping by. My heart hurts for you because you’re going through so much with your girls. I hope that you continue to be comforted by the words of others. Please visit again soon.

  30. Rae says:

    My family is living in a nightmare due to our just turned 15 year old daughter. We’ve been dealing with bad behaviors/choices since she was about 10 but things started out small and escalated to such an enormous level I am paralyzed. I started catching her in lies and everyone told me she manipulated me constantly but I didn’t see it and the lies I just thought were extreme pubescent behaviors. We had her in dance, en pointe for 5 hours a week, a mentorship program 2x a week with the local YMCA, youth group with our church, counseling and psychiatrists. Despite everything we did for her she was getting worse….trouble in school and finally alleging her dad hit her. CPS got involved and has been ever since. The physical abuse was recanted and there were no consequences for my husband thank God! We have 3 kids none of which have ever even been spanked let alone “hit”….she was getting in more trouble at school and the restrictions we put on her were no cell phone, no technology etc. well, I guess that really pissed her off because she told a friend last June on the bus to school that her dad molested her, cps came again and she was taken to a shelter because no one in either of our families was willing to take her because we have been very open about her behaviors. Again she recanted that story and said she did it because she stopped taking her medicine and was depressed and wanted attention/someone to feel sorry for her. We knew she needed help so she was put in residential care for 8 months. We worked through our issues, or so we thought, going to family therapy once a week and visitation on weekends etc. she seemed to be stabilized and ok. She was discharged Jan 30…everything seemed ok and we were progressing, she had a two person team that came to the home 3x a week and saw her privately at her alternative school,once a week. April comes and there is a knock on the door, police and cps again, she was in shock as was the rest of the family, husband, son 17 and a daughter 11. Apparently a friend of hers made a report to the school and they called cps. This whole time my kid is acting like she has no idea what’s going on. To make a very long story short, she continued to deny that any of these allegations made by her friend, were true. That was until she was told she couldn’t stay at home and then the gates from hell opened up….she made outlandish statements of sexual abuse from her father and that she was addicted to drugs…..? That kid was NEVER left unsupervised, when did she turn into a drug addict? When did all of this abuse take place when we live in a 1700 square foot home with 5 people? Btw- she has made allegations against 4 other people (minors) one of them was in the residential facility and one was the girl that reported whatever she said to the alternative school.Needless to say my husband was charged and is DEVASTATED along with the rest of us…..what is wrong with her? Why would she do something so awful that it literally could ruin lives forever?!! She prided herself on being daddy’s little girl! Now cps has taken her and they believed she was a drug abuser even with a negative drug test and sent her to rehab, my husband just got bailed out of jail and now we just have to sit and wait and wonder what is happening to her. Her siblings are great kids and we never have and any problems with them and they hate her now. Our lawyer said none of us should talk to her and hang up if she tries because they could try to twist whatever was being said. I have lost a daughter, my husband and our family unit all because these people believe her lies. I feel so alone, if it weren’t for my other two kids I don’t think I could get off my couch i am so devastated. My parents have written her off, his parents too and our kids. She is ONLY 15 and she is my baby. They have her on Geodon, Celexa and Trazadone. She has been caught in so many lies, in court, out of court, and my husband is still charged with what she said “happened” and has to live at his fathers until this is all said and done if he doesn’t go to prison for the rest of his life because of her lies even though she will never be allowed to live back here at home because I do have other kids to protect. I have nowhere to turn except my family and I am sure they have heard enough of my sobbing and just want me to move forward. How do you move forward when your baby is so sick and your life hangs in the balance?? Please someone help me!!

  31. Hello Rae,

    I am sorry for all of your pain and struggles with your daughter. Clearly, she has many issues going on and everyone in the family has been affected by it. It sounds as if your daughter has burned all of her bridges with your family except for you. I can see you love your daughter simply by reading your story. You’ve done everything you could to help her. One thing that you mentioned was how your life hangs in the balance. When the parents I work with say things like this, I have them review the good things. Right now, that may seem very hard, but you can do this. Your husband is out of jail, your other children are all at home and ok. And you’re handling all of this while caring for your family. My question to you is, do you want to move forward? Your family has made a decision about your daughter, so there is not much you can do about that. What you can do is take care of your emotional needs if you feel different. I recommend you seeing a therapist to talk all of this out and get the support you need. Maybe with therapy, you can get perspective. Sometimes when we feel that our world is crashing down, it is hard to see our way out of it. But, when we get support from outside, it can make a world of difference. Best of luck to you and visit again soon.

  32. Michelle says:

    I’m glad I stopped to read this post. It was very son and I have experienced being called bad and that I’m not doing something right as a parent. My son Has not been diagnosed with bipolar but i do suspect him having it. I have mentioned this to countless of doctors he has seen. My son is 8 years old and has been hospitalized 3 times. What he is diagnosed as having is add/adhd combined with odd, and intermintent explosive mood disorder. I feel like it’s more than that. He becomes very aggressive, slms doors is very easily agitated.His moods changes every second,minute hour its very unpridictable.

  33. Hi Michelle,

    I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Part of the stigma that comes from parenting a child with mental illness is the idea that we’re not good parents. For some kids, like Bob, mental illness just crop up. For others, it is inherited. And for others yet, mental illness comes after a traumatic experience. As for your son, it sounds like he has a lot going on. Based on what you’ve written here, your son does not have bipolar disorder. It is characterized by highs and lows. From the aggressive behavior and easy agitation along with frequent mood changes, bipolar disorder wouldn’t be an appropriate diagnosis. My advice to you is to go to the treatment team and have them list all of the symptoms of bipolar disorder as well as those for his current diagnoses. Maybe if you can compare the lists, it will be a bit clearer for you. And please know that diagnosing mental illness is not easy at all. Each diagnosis has a long list of symptoms and some are very similar to one another. I hope this helps. Please come visit again soon.

  34. Barb says:

    I was looking for a support group for parents and I came upon this blog. I am just looking for some answers. I had another incident with my 24 year old son today and I am so exhausted trying to walk on eggshells. Each week I say this is the week that we honestly address his issues. He came home a year ago having graduated from college (we think). Given how he looked and how he behaves, I really don’t know. Within two weeks of his arrival, he and I had a significant argument. To make a long story short, he blames me for his issues and his inability to function and be an adult. He will not allow me to step him as he thinks everything I do is suspect. He was seeing a psychiatrist in his college town only occasionally. Started with a mild anti-anxiety and then moved to Adderall for Adult ADD. I just don’t think that the Adderall is good for him and he has no follow-up with his doctor except when he gets his prescription filled. I tried to call the doctor last summer to express my concerns. Of course, he called my son and my son said “no way can you talk to her!!” I think he has been ADD since he was young but was smart enough to get through school. His moodiness started in middle school. Would withdraw occasionally. Was pretty popular in school since he could be charming, was athletic, and a natural leader but showed symptoms of anxiety and a short temper. When he went to college, it all fell apart. He has been home for a year, no job, nothing. He was still socializing with his college friends for a few months but now has not seen them for months–they are positive people in his life. Has returned to the friends from high school that I do not care for but at least they work. In the last couple of months, I have come to accept that my bright son who I had high hopes for is probably not going to come back and I grieve daily. I have sleep issues and have gained a lot of weight this year that I could not have afforded to gain. The issue is that my husband just won’t acknowledge that he is probably mentally ill. I talk to some of my friends about it since they have experienced with their children or themselves. My husband will not address it since his family has always swept issues like this under the rug. My son has chosen not to attend family functions which is actually fine with me since he puts me on edge. He did attend his sister’s college graduation and it was a good day. His room is full of garbage and bottles of urine which I found as well as empty beer bottles and couple bottles of whiskey. I try hard to respect him and hope that the filth will get to him but I am pretty close to issuing the ultimatum that he either he cleans it up or I will. I have always run interference between him and his Dad and if his Dad sees the bottles of urine, it is going to be a very humiliating situation for my son. There are days when I feel he wants to move forward but just won’t let me help. I have a hard time being around people who want to know what he is doing and why he isn’t working. I don’t like keeping secrets but I am trying to respect him.
    I have to say that mental illness is definitely part of my family. My father’s brother killed himself in front of his children. My father died of the effects of alcoholism later in life. I did everything in my power to keep alcohol out of my home to break the cycle. I have cousins who have been addicts etc. I am highly educated and am a teacher at a community college so I do have students who are in the midst of their struggle but at least they are trying to better their lives. I am looking for help but I am also at a point where I am seriously considering taking on lobbying my congressman to change the mental health laws for parents so they can help their children up to age 26 if they are not on their own since I can have him on my insurance until then. It is ridiculous that at 18, we no longer have the right to get help for them. I don’t necessarily need to be in the room for therapy but I should be able to share what I know and observe. I was responsible for his tuition, his housing, and could deduct him on my taxes, I think I should have the right to get him psychiatric care. If he had cancer, no one would think twice about helping.

  35. Hi Barb,

    My heart goes out to you after reading your story. It must be very difficult and painful to see your son suffering so much. I can also see how much the lack of treatment is affecting him and you. To add to it, your husband doesn’t give you much support. Bob’s father was the same and it was my advocacy that helped improve that a bit. As for your son, you’re right. At 18, a person is considered a legal adult capable of making their own decisions about their health. I guess this is why I work with children and families. In this way, kids and teens can be treated while parents are helped with support and psycho-education. There’s more hope in this. Sometimes things don’t always work out for the best, but I feel like kids are more open to resolving things than adults. That being said, I do agree that adults are much harder to treat because they can decide whether or not to accept treatment and/or involve family & friends in that treatment. You may not have the right to help your son or be a part of his treatment, but you do have the right to peace in your own home. You need to decide what works best for you. Especially since you’ve been so negatively affected (weight gain; insomnia). It sounds like this experience has given you the idea to lobby your local officials to change things around. I wish you the best and please come again soon.

  36. Kwan S says:


    I have an 18 year old teenage daughter who has been diagnosed as autistic. However, she has a lot of anxiety and behavioral issues that seem to me to be bordering on mental illness. She is angry, restless and rebellious. She wants her own way most of the time and is unable to reciprocate love. She is also mentally challenged and is not independent.

    My heart breaks every time I think about what the future holds for her. How will she be able to cope in an institutional environment after I have passed on. How will be the staff treat her given her bad temper and rebelliousness.

    I have lost a lot of hope in life and the future.

  37. Hello Kwan,

    I can see how worried you are for your daughter both in the present as well as in the future. Something about autism as well as other disorders is co-morbidity. Co-morbidity means that there are two or more mental health disorders together. With autism comes difficulty in reading emotions of others as well as the ability to express emotions appropriately. And if people cannot express themselves effectively, they get frustrated and anxious. Then they may lash out physically. I’m wondering if she is currently in therapy to address her anxiety and behavior issues. With a team specializing in working with autistic clients, she can learn appropriate behaviors to share as well as how to express her feelings in a positive way. The good thing is that you are aware that there is an issue and you can find services for her. And since autism is a developmental disorder, you can find specific services that can address this. Another thing, look for the good stuff in your daughter. Clearly, she is a strong-willed person comfortable with asserting herself. Look for the positives. Start out with the small things – she smiled at you today, she played well with a toy, etc. I know it may be hard, but once you catch the good stuff, hope will follow. Take care and please come again soon.

  38. Melissa Jones says:

    Melissa J. I have a 10 yr old son who has a mental illness and I am a single parent. It’s hard to deal and cope with his illness. He has depression,odd & adhd. I fight myself all the time and I ask myself what did I do wrong. I hate to see my son suffer and go through what he goes through. He gets picked on and called names all the time. I really am scared that he is going to hurt himself one day. I tried getting him help and no one understands. I feel like I lost a child. Sometimes I just want to jump over a cliff and throw in the towel.

  39. Hi Melissa. Thank you for visiting. Single parenting and a child with mental illness definitely make for an interesting combo. I wonder if you’ve gone through the social services section of your state’s website. I don’t know where you live so I can only recommend that for now. Talk to his pediatrician or ask for an evaluation through the school. It sounds as if you don’t have much support. I’d say find a local single parenting group with childcare. That way you can both have positive interactions and build a support system. With all of his diagnoses, I’d recommend therapy to start and maybe medication later on if therapy alone doesn’t work. I know that it can be so unbearable sometimes, but when you reach out for support, you’ll find that you can bear the challenges that you face. Hope this helps. Please come visit again soon.

  40. Ilya says:

    Most parents of mentally ill children are mentally ill themselves but instead choose to seek treatment for their own problems through their children. They’re much like stage parents. I suggest that anyone accusing anyone else of being mentally ill take a good, long, hard, look in the mirror before doing so. You might find that the crazy person you see looking back at you is the one who really needs treatment. Not your poor, innocent, unsuspecting, children.

    I pray for those accused of being mentally ill. It’s the last real form of abuse there is.

  41. Hello Ilya,

    Thanks for visiting and thank you for the comment. As a matter of fact, genetics does play a role in how many children have mental illness. Just not as much as you think. Most parents have issues and problems that affect the way they function in the world. However, I wouldn’t say that most parents of mentally ill children are mentally ill themselves. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any parents with mental illness. I just wonder where you’re getting this information from. Genetics is a factor, but life experiences and trauma (abuse, neglect, natural disasters, etc) also have an effect on the number of children diagnosed with a mental illness. You write that most parents of mentally ill children are mental ill themselves, but then pray from those being accused of being mentally ill. Aren’t you being accusatory in your statement about “most parents?” Just something to think about. Thanks again for visiting and please come again soon.

  42. Lisa says:

    Hello Ilya-
    I understand that kids learn and inherit many things from their parents. However, I have to disagree with your statement. It is obvious that you do not understand all that is involved in what causes mental illnesses. Comments saying that the parents are to blame are painful and cruel. Frankly, they are false and without merit. How are these types of comments going to help anyone?
    I can guarantee that parents (birth, adoptive, foster, relatives)who are raising mentally ill children are constantly looking for anything that will help the entire family. They are not looking to blame rather they are looking for help. The fact of the matter is mental health is making wonderful advances but there is still a lot that is not known.
    If you think you know how to fix this huge problem please become a foster parent and take in children who have been abused, neglected, drug exposed, abandoned and provide them a home environment where they will not become mentally ill. There are many children who could use your expertise.

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