In my last post I shared three tips for having tough conversations with loved ones about your child’s mental illness. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, check them out. Here are my final three tips on how to advocate for your child and get support from others. Tough conversations are hard, but with these tips, people can come around.
Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 4
Conversations take time. I knew before saying the first word that my father would have a difficult time with it. He simply did not believe in the reality of mental health (even though by then I’d graduated with a Master’s in Mental Health Counseling and he was proud of that). The conversation began back then and continues today with me providing my father with nuggets of knowledge about Bob’s diagnosis.
Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 5
Know when to take a break.
Having a talk like this was not only anxiety provoking, but emotionally intense. I loved my father but needed him to understand how much I would do for Bob’s mental health and well-being; even to the point of facing a huge fear and asserting myself with my father. I also knew that I needed to give my father time to think about the things I shared. I didn’t expect change to happen overnight, but my father’s perspective has softened because he had time to reflect on our talk.
Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 6
Expect the worst; Hope for the best.
This was a phrase I learned when I was a certified emergency medical technician (many moons ago). I expected my father to be upset because he did not (and still doesn’t) like being challenged. So, I knew talking about this would upset him. Even knowing this, I also had hope that my father would come to see that Bob’s ADHD was real. That Bob was not intentionally misbehaving but that his symptoms were out of his control.
Hopefully these tips and my experience will help with you with challenging talks with your loved ones. It isn’t easy and is a process, but it can be done. Also remember that conversations need to be on-going so that awareness of your child’s mental illness can grow. And if the person doesn’t respond no matter what you say? With love, you can have a relationship with that person, but keep other people in your village that DO understand or want to understand what you’re going through.