Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey

August 19, 2010 Angela McClanahan


Being the parent of a mentally ill child is painfully tough. Can you ever come to terms with your child's mental illness, the expenses, and facing the stigma?

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.
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.

helpingKipling’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

Which 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.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, August 19). Parents of Mentally Ill Children Have a Long and Difficult Journey, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

October, 29 2014 at 2:12 pm

My seven year old has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He was in a pediatric hospital for several weeks then released to partial hospitalization. This has been the worst months of our family's life. I am losing hope. He threatened to kill himself, his father, and his younger brother which led to the initial hospitalization. I feel like we have lost our son and any normalcy in our lives. He has been on so many drugs with little improvement. Today was particularly bad in that he raged in the car and said that when he got home he was going to stab himself. I feel so hopeless and cry all the time. I want my living little boy back. I know he is in there and we see glimpses between the different mood states. The pain he goes through makes my heart shatter. Any words of encouragement out there would be so appreciated. Thank you for listening.

Carol price
October, 20 2014 at 4:47 pm

I have a 33 year old bipolar son that lives with me. I am single 54 years old. He controls me isolates me verbally cusses me spits on me. Physically abuses me. He alienates everyone that trys to come near me. He uses emotional Black mail to keep me under his control. He doesn't have a car he doesn't date are have are doesn't want a girlfriend. He never leaves the house. He got me evicted from my last home. Cussed out my co-worker of 13years I had a breakdown because I was fixing to be homeless. I put myself in the hospital for 2 weeks. While I was in the hospital he went to a Rehab. My Sister helped me find this nice condo, I even found a nice Salon to work at. But he started calling there continuously that I lost my Job there. He dresses like batman reads comic books all the time. He is smoking Cannabis-weed again that makes him so paranoid. He doesn't take his morning meds until 1 in the p.m. and his night meds at 1 in the a.m. stays up until 4a.m slamming cabinets eating all night. I am his prisoner. If I tell him he needs to go get help are find a place to live besides here he threatens me with lies that he will tell to try to get me in trouble are evicted. God someone out there help me. I have lost so many good potential relationships because of him he jumps on my date are runs them away. Please God someone out there help me?

October, 19 2014 at 10:00 pm

we too have a 26 year old son who has a serious mental health problem, looking back, for all his life but became more obvious as he got older. He has been in trouble with police, had to live in hostels as he was a threat to the rest of the family. Nothing we have done in the past or try to do now for him helps, we try to keep some normality but its impossible. He hears voices, cries, paranoid, OCD etc etc, because of his age the medics will not talk to us but we are supposed to support him with no knowledge of how to do that. It is tearing us apart, and really making us ill, I feel I need to preserve my own sanity now for the sake of our other 3 children and each other. He sees psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs, hospital, but we are never allowed to be involved, but we are the ones calling ambulances when he is suicidal, where is the help for all the thousands of families going through this, who in the end back off completely to preserve their own sanity which leaves the person alone, how does the help? give us some help then maybe we would not have to give up! thinking of all you out there going through the same thing xx

September, 29 2014 at 3:54 am

My 13 year old daughter has just been diagnosed with bipolar and o.d.d this has been the worst couple of years she was able to convince most of my family that it was my fault that she had been acting out some have started to see that it is her she has been hospitalized 3 times already and now she is dating a 19 year old I'm putting her in therapeutic foster care because I feel I can not keep her safe at home right now. Has anyone else gone through this.

September, 21 2014 at 10:06 am

Hi, my partner of 4 years has a 19 year old son, he was diagnosed with aspergers at the age of 9, he is also gay, we live in private rented accommodation, everything in life he has, phone, internet, food, nice house and including myself, lovely caring people to confide in, he was recently diagnosed with a mental illness, I am now watching his mother slowly deteriorate, pain in her eyes, crying, pain, hurt ... You name it, she is feeling it, I'm helpless because I'm not his dad, he is extremely violent, abusive and hurtful. Just the simplest task of taking a cup or plate to the kitchen sparks off a massive war, after his mum cleaned his room, we actually found mouldy food, piles of filthy washing and a bottle which he had urinted in because he couldn't be bothered to go to the toilet, he is on prescribed drugs from the doctor, but nothing he is taking is helping at all ?? I suppose I am just waiting for the inevitable to happen, then I will call the police, must his mother really have to put up with this ? His father isn't cared and his mother only has me as a shoulder to cry on.
Am finding this hard
Please offer some advice

betty donnell
September, 20 2014 at 5:30 am

hello im betty my husband and I are going thru things we don't understand our 12 year old daughter is mentally ill she beats up on me just this Thursday was arrested we took her to the hospital sometimes u fell like u cant take any more but find streangth to keep on going god really helps us .

September, 2 2014 at 1:33 pm

Cece, I'm sorry you have to go trough this, it is very difficult. My heart goes out to you for the emotional and physical pain this has caused you. Know that you are not alone, don't feel alone, we are here and understand. Keep praying for your daughter and don't give up the hope that she will in time do better for herself. Take care of your son and yourself, you can do it!!!

August, 27 2014 at 9:24 pm

Hi S and everyone else. I am writing because I don't have a support group or no one that understand what I go through. I have a bipolar daughter that just turned 18 august 20. I thought I would feel better when my daughter turned 18 but I still have panic attacks. She's been running away and prostituting since she was 15. She will take a greyhound to another city, get caught and go to juvie. I've set her up to be caught numerous of times. She's been hospitalized, took her to rehabilitation centers across the country because they don't have locked facilities where I live, she can just walk right out. These centers are not cheap, 3,500 per week. I thank God my insurance paid for her. Basically all this was buying me time until she reached18. I cry because I see a lot of my friends kids doing so well, graduating from high school, going to college. It got sooo bad, when she turned 16 1/2 I called the cops because she was a threat to herself and my family. They spoke to my son and he told then he was scared she was going to kill me. They removed her from my home for abuse and haven't lived with me since. She didn't care, she don't like rules she says she would rather live in a homeless shelter so she can do what she wants. She likes living on the streets and prostituting herself. I have been through it all, from nervous breakdowns to contemplating suicide just to get away from her. She has used me until she can't anymore. All I can do is pray for her, I have to take care of myself some how. She don't like to work for NOTHING, no high school diploma, nothing. I have to live for me, my son and my fiancé. I can't force her to take her meds. I have life insurance on her so if something happens I won't be burden. She is on the path of self destruction. I feel like watching a an action/drama/thriller and horror movie all at once. She's constantly on these water coaster rides, there's no need for amusement parks I have one in my own backyard!

August, 20 2014 at 6:25 pm

Dear s, I'm so sorry you have to go trough this. Know that you are not alone, I wish I could be there to help and support you but from the distance and with all my heart I send you a great big hug. You are a great woman and an amazing mom! Sending lots of love your way.

August, 20 2014 at 7:45 am

I've decided to post a comment just to let other parents know that you are not alone and really to not feel so alone myself. I am currently sitting in the er with my 16 yr old son. He is bipolar along with a handful of other mental health ailments. He assaulted a classmate a teacher and a police officer. We are waiting for him to get admitted into an inpatient mental health hospital. I am worn down and can't wait for him to be 18. I've already decided that I will not let him stay with me past his 18th birthday. I need to preserve my own mental health. Whoever you are out there, please hang in there. We can do this. I've got to believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel...maybe we can meet there.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
August, 20 2014 at 3:12 pm

Thank you for your comment. I am so inspired by your ability to be appropriately selfish by setting boundaries for your self and knowing your limits. That is so hard to do as a mother of a child with mental illness. But it must be done.

August, 16 2014 at 12:26 pm

Why do we have to suffer in silence. I to have a mentally ill child with a veriody of problems and can explode over the littlest thing. It's very hard to find him the right help or even convincing him he needs it. There should be a place for those who live with the mentally ill can go to find confert, support or just a place to cry amoung those who get their pain.I feel for all those whos replys I've read because I've lived it too.I wish I could hug you. If only it can make things ok for a bit.

Lisa Furr
July, 22 2014 at 8:39 am

God this year has been so hard I have and still am fighting breast cancer and before that already had health issues. My 33 year old daugher is bipolar and has never moved out. She had a normal 14 year old daughter and a 9 year old bipolar son. Her and her son have other mental health issues. She has always been mentally abusive but this last year has turned physically abusive to since she knows I cant fight back. Her son has always been violent. Now I have to leave and she will say Im abandoning her. I left before I had surgery but she lost her home within a month had to go to a motel to live and talked me into coming back. She since has started drawing SSI. But with me sick she has made many mistakes. Now we r hungry living in a condemned house where she has moved an abusive boyfriend in. She blames me for all her problems has taken all my freedom. I can stand to have her around me now. And what Im saying isn't d half of it. Im scared she will hurt me bad before I can get out. And Im worried about my grand children. She can fool people into thinking Im the problem. Now I believe I've wasted my life on her. So fed up.

July, 14 2014 at 5:59 am

It is heart-breaking to 'lose' a child to serious mental illness, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by it in one way or another. To be at the receiving end of a child's hurt, anger and above all, confusion, can feel like abuse, but I'm not sure there is real intent to be abusive. The only support I might offer is to tell yourself that the essence of your child is still within, and that however s/he might rage against you and /or the world, your only response is to continue to offer your unconditional love (and of course to keep yourself and your child as safe as you can). Hope is all any of us in situations such as these have in this life. I wish you all the very best. There are many of us who bear this silent burden day by day, and I hope it helps you to know that you're not alone in your struggle.

Janina Moe
July, 10 2014 at 9:45 pm

My daughter is only abusive and bipolar with me, therefore nobody else believes me she is mentally ill and think I'm lying. She has used me, lied about me, claims credit for me buying her a car, taking her to dinner,etc. She only comes around to ask for money and is very abusive and disrespectful at all other times. I'm at my wits end. She has a one year old son. His father is a deadbeat loser. I'm really on the end of my rope with her. I cannot take the abuse anymore.

July, 9 2014 at 2:49 pm

My 24 year old daughter has been experiencing mental health issues since age 11. Many hospitalizations, suicide attempts, all the things that mentally unwell persons experience. Last night, she left home once again in a manic state, and proceeded to spend last night and today, in and out of a delusional state. She was released from the hospital on Monday, and it is Wednesday and here we are again. I love my daughter still, I dread what might happen to her. Keeping my own sanity through all of this has been the greatest challenge I face. There is no "normacy" to any day. I am tired emotionally, physically, and mentally, and so isn't my family. She has no idea what she is doing. I have decided that the only thing I can do is pray and continue to hope that the answers and guidance will come.

July, 7 2014 at 8:39 pm

I have a 22 year old child with bipolar 2 with mania as her tendency. I believe she has this illness in conjunction with other undiagnosed issues because of her behavior. She takes medicine for the bipolar disorder but is very agresive, she is obsesed with knives. She says that she is transexual and is going to a psichologyst who helps transexuals with their changes. Also she is a great liar and manipulator. She has decided that marijuana is the solution for her and not only uses it but is working on her father (who has biporar disorder, narcisistic personality disorder, and obsesive compulsive disorder) so he can use it as well. I would be surprised if he us not using now. I have pressured her to go to a Psichiatrist and be properly diagnosed because her diagnosis was made by a medical doctor, not a specialist. I have mourned the loss of my husband to mental illness, I am mourning the loss of my amazing, responsible, and mature child to mental illness. I'm at the end of my rope. I gave it all to now be acused of all sorts of crazy things. I live in a state that is one if the worst for mental illness care and it's very hard to find support so truthfully I have not taken care of my emotional needs. My husband's family doesn't care what happens to him or my kids and my family is in another country. I feel incredibly frustrated, lonely and I don't believe there's a light at the end if this tunnel. I have a 14 year old son who is being affected by all this and I know I must protect him from all this. I need some guidance and some hope that things will get better please help me!

June, 12 2014 at 3:40 pm

Wow! Rae your story is very similar to mine... I would like to share and maybe get in touch with you.
I am the "Pasco mom accused of belting my child with a belt" I am now ready to set the the story staight.... this "child" at the time was 17yrs old few months shy of turning 18. A little about myself.... I am a loving, dedicated, responsible mother of 3 beautiful children ages 18, 13 and 11 in addition to a devoted wife married 15yrs and a devoted daughter and caregiver to my now disabled mother and best friend. My first born has always been very smart, so intelligent that she completed 2 grades in 1 year thus graduating at 17. We have always worked very hard to provide our children with love and support and a healthy environment. at the age of 14 our daughter started displaying an extreme change in behavior... it was brought to our attention by her ex beau when he called me and said "Mom how is hr cancer doing?... to which I replied what are you talking about?!!! Cancer? she doesnt have cancer... to then him saying that "I" had texted him and told him that she was now in remission.... Remission? I texted you? absolutly not. Any way not only did we discover that she was he one that had pretended to be me and texted him, but that she had told a string of horrible lies from me trying to shoot her in the head with a gun, to her being "Jumped" by a gang in China town New York, to accusing another teen of trying to rape her .... full CSI investigation conducted and nothing found to validate accusation. As you can see these are Serious alegations that can clearly damage and ruin an individuals reputation, character and life. We took immediate action by taking her to counceling and even had to change her from school because she claimed that she was being bullied by her classmates. She got with the wrong crowed , was doing drugs having sex with multiple partners male and female and was in a rapid spiral down hill. She was cutting, was baker acted 4 times, was caught stealing and almost didnt graduate had it not been for our support and constant intervention. I had decided to try to get a night job at the hospital and after a month had to resig because our 2 younger children revealed to us that she was bringing people into the house and doing drugs and engaging in sexual activiy and she had threatened them that if they told us they wouldnt see the sun rise. we were of course extremely dissapointed and because of that told her she needed to leave and we packed up her stuff I asked her for my Iphone back she started cursing at me and disrespecting me .... she said she wasnt going to tell me where my F.... cell was.... I continued to ask her for it and she kept lying to me and disrespecting me... so tired of the utter lack of respect I went and grabbed a belt and told her If she didnt stop lying and give me my phone i was going to use it... She chuckled... I just dropped it and told my husband to take her and drop her off at the college dorms at her friends... we advised her that we would be going to fill out paper work for on campus living and that we were taking back the car we had ust bought for her with the help from family. He dropped her off at 8pm and at 12am the door bell rang and it was the cops. I thought the worst... I thought that she had either tried to end her life again or that shw had gotten into a car accident or in trouble but never did I imagine that she would Falsley accuse me of Child abuse let alone that the police would believe her. The Cop that arrested me asked me "why did you grab a belt?" I said "I dont know... to scare her".... he made his way into my house checked on my other 2 children who were sleeping and saw that there was clearly no abuse ever going on in this home yet still arrested me. he was unproffessional and in his line of questioning that made me feel extremely uncomfortable and made race related statements such as "I know first hand how ya'll latin woman are with are spicy attitudes" to asking me why I was still with my husband and that I was to pretty to stay with him. he even wiped my tears and hugged me.... When DCF showed up the next morning they interviewed my to youngest children and family and immediatly new that this was a wrongful arrest even saying "mam we are so sorry .. who arrested you? because we would have never arested you. When I said "Daughtry" they were not surprised saying omg.. he is known for doing this... Charge where dropped. my daghter got caught stealling again was kicked out of college going to stip clubs doing drugs and completly out of control...where was the state? who was now protecting my child? My hands were tied ....finally she was sent to a behavioral health institution where sha was diagnosed with Bipolar Manic disorder....She was there for almost 60 days and is on meds... Mental Illness is a rapid increasing issue affecting our youth today and its affecting parents lives as well.
have learned a very sad lesson and its that we live in an extremely harsh society....I now know why they say don't believe everything you read... and how the media can negativley report and damage an individuals character by not delivering the entire story nor updating it. I know now why they say dont say a word to the police because they will twist and turn your words around... protect and serve? or accuse and arrest? without a thorough investigation. Mental illness is a rapid growing problem in our teenagers and Officers need to be better trained in identifying this.

May, 25 2014 at 3:39 am

I am a single parent with 2 sons suffering from mental illness. I currently on active duty almost at 20 years. My older son who is bipolar and ADHD currently lives with my ex.
My younger son is 21 years of age and has lived with me all of his life. A couple of years ago, he tried to hurt himself by trying to jump off of the apartment balcony. At this point he was put on medication which seemed to help with the voices he was hearing and keep him stable. A few months later, we moved to another state and he began staying up later and later playing games and taking his medication later. He seemed to grow more hustle and aggressive. A few months ago, he confronted me hitting and pushing me, tried to hurt himself. I ended up calling the police. When they arrived, he tried to resist arrest by running up the stairs, they tased him. It was horrible!
Now he is with my ex in another state waiting for a court date. He can not even talk to me because of the no contact order. Right now, I am going to counseling, but feel like I have lost my son. My ex blames me for our sons problems because I had put my ex in jail for abuse several years ago. Although I miss my son very, very much, he had too much control over me.

May, 23 2014 at 6:48 am

I have a 30 year old daughter who started at the age of 13ish, to have odd behavior that I thought was an outrageous imagination. She wrote novels, good ones, tons of them and was an only child so I had nobody to compare her to.
By the age of 19, she was stealing regularly, didn't want to work and couldn't keep a job due to stealing.
By the age of 23, she was still financially dependent on me and I had to close the wallet and force her on her own after finding out she was spending all her time on the internet conning innocent people on Ebay, paypal, myspace, facebook, etc. She'd pretend to be a rock band and get innocent girls all over the world to give her their credit card & social security information so she could open more accounts & steal more. She even posted sex dolls for sale for $3300, took the money and then of course didn't have the product. Just stealing.
Perfectly healthy all her life, she now cons doctors so she can collect disability.
She does nothing but lie, cheat and steal to everyone. And now, she's gone so far, that she even had her breasts removed to costume herself as a man for these online profiles to scam people.
I can't understand what kind of mental illness this is or how to deal with it. I get angry at her and that obviously is not working well. She's over 18 so I have no rights to her medical information or any other information at all. Anyone know what it might be?

May, 1 2014 at 1:25 pm

2 boys - ADHD, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, bipolar disorder - the older one 9 years old - stabbed his teacher got expelled started at new special needs school for violent kids - stabbed his new teacher with a pencil and was suspended indefinitely. The younger 8 has the maturity of a 2 year old, the brain of a 10 year old and the manipulative ability of a 20 year old and is also equally violent and even more out of control. My entire family has abandoned us and wants nothing to do with us because of them. I have lost everything - my house my career.... I am a widow - I am at the end of what I can cope with. Has anyone else thought or has given up custody of young children like this? I am thinking I can't do it anymore .....

April, 25 2014 at 10:12 am

What is important to consider is your own safety and sanity. Secondly is to gain support, even if you currently have none. See who is willing and able to help you, but have specific wishes for them and express it clearly.
I love what Heiddi said. Learning to stand up for yourself is HUGE. My husband insults people when he tries. I withdraw completely. We both need a middle ground.
For those of us having a hard time seeing what in the heck our child is thinking, TRY to put yourself in their shoes, realizing that they do NOT think rationally. Imagine being in a state of confusion, wanting to do the right thing, but not knowing what it. Think of the times when s/he has clarity and the difference in the rationale. ASK what they are thinking. I found out that my VERY VERY VERY MEAN daughter was a product of all the vast amount of bullying, even though SHE put herself into those situations. Also let them know that you DO know a lot but not everything, but what you don't know, you will try to find an answer, with their help.
Always try to involve them in everything "independent" -- cooking, finding answers, etc.
Also involve them in things that help them face the fact that others have hardships, too, different from theirs. Find ways to help them help others. Like, take them to a nursing home just to play cards with them or whatever. I say nursing home over assisted living, b/c typically it's the nursing homes that need it the most, but you could always check your areas.
START UP a play group for kids who are "socially awkward from whatever reason. This gives them a chance they will otherwise not have.
My answer was to home school my daughter after 7th grade, b/c the abuse from others had turned her into something awful. It has taken 2 years, but I'm starting to see the sweet side of her. I actually heard her tell a stranger almost that exact, same thing the other day. I'd say she's on her way towards a loving heart again.
Most of all, keep up the faith. Don't forget that God loves you and will stand by you. Don't let go. And again, for those who have given up on their kids, remember that God loves them, too. Don't give up. Find a new way to love them.
God bless you all.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 28 2014 at 3:09 pm

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you for the visit and sharing your insights with other parents. You give some great ideas on how to help a child with mental illness. Thank you so much for your kind words and thoughts. Please come visit again soon!

January, 3 2014 at 5:53 pm

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.

December, 8 2013 at 5:06 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 9 2013 at 3:59 pm

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.

Melissa Jones
September, 15 2013 at 9:27 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

September, 18 2013 at 4:49 pm

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.

Kwan S
August, 21 2013 at 12:34 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 21 2013 at 4:16 pm

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.

August, 6 2013 at 4:06 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

August, 7 2013 at 4:14 pm

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.

July, 22 2013 at 1:48 pm

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 28 2013 at 5:50 am

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.

July, 1 2013 at 7:56 am

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!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 4 2013 at 5:14 am

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.

May, 17 2013 at 11:16 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 23 2013 at 5:58 am

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.

March, 20 2013 at 4:01 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 26 2013 at 3:41 pm

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!

March, 19 2013 at 9:44 am

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!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 19 2013 at 4:15 pm

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.

Arlene Pettersen
March, 16 2013 at 5:27 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

March, 19 2013 at 3:30 pm

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.

February, 8 2013 at 3:03 am

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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 12 2013 at 4:56 pm

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!

relentless mom
January, 22 2013 at 8:11 pm

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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 30 2013 at 12:52 am

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.

Josephine North
December, 23 2012 at 1:10 pm

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.

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