Supporting children of parents with Mental Illness


Dad sleeps a lot. Mom is always crying or talking in a way that doesn’t make sense. Dad goes to from being happy to angry for no reason. If any of these sound familiar, you might have a parent with a mental illness. What is mental illness? Mental illness can stop the brain from working properly. Just like a broken arm stops you from throwing a ball normally. If your parent has a mental
illness, their mind might be a bit jumbled and hard to understand. You may know the name of your parent’s illness such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia. Or you may just notice that your parent’s emotions, such as sadness, fear, anger or paranoia change a
lot and you never know what to expect. Mental illness can make relationships difficult and effect a person’s ability to function on a day to day basis. There isn’t one specific cause of mental illness. Our family history, difficult experiences we’ve had and our environment all play a part. Your parent may be getting help like talking to a therapist or taking medication and many people get better. But recovery isn’t always a straight line. Your parent might have good days and bad days. Your parent’s mental illness is not your fault or your responsibility. Even if you’re told it’s your fault, remember that it’s not, no matter what. You didn’t cause your parent’s mental illness by anything you did or said. Mental illness is nobody’s fault. You are also not alone. One in ten Canadian children under the age of 12 lives with a parent with mental illness. This means, even though they may not talk about it, some of your friends might be going through the same thing. Having a parent with a mental illness might make you feel angry, sad, hurt, afraid, confused, worried, or embarrassed. That’s OK! And how most people would feel. But it’s important to take care of yourself too. Make time to do things that are important to you. Like… listening to music, doing school work, hanging out with friends, writing in a journal or being physically active. If you feel comfortable, you can talk to your parent. It might sound like… “Mom, I’m worried about you. I feel scared when you are really angry or sad. It seems to happen often. Can your doctor help?” If you don’t feel that you can talk to your
parent or you feel unsafe, talk to someone you trust. This might be a sibling or other
family member, a close friend, a doctor, or adult that you trust at your school or religious group. You are not alone and it’s important to ask for help when you need it. Helping other people, actually makes us feel good. So give those around you the chance to help. There are many places in your community, where you can get help if you need it.

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