There can be a lot of parent shame about mental illness when seeking help for a child. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of or seen the website Stigma Fighters. It’s the brain child of Sarah Fader who wanted to create a space for people with mental illness to talk about their experience. She’s pretty committed to ending stigma and has been on Huffington Post, Psychology Today and Good Day New York talking about this.
She’s pretty amazing. Plus, she lives in Brooklyn.
With all of the issues that come with living with mental illness it’s a shame that the shame of having the illness/disorder–whatever you want to call it–can quadruple all the other challenges that come along with it. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the anxiety from parent and child as well!
There’s a Buddhist story that I always liked about a man who’s shot with an arrow. The arrow hurts, it’s pretty horrible, but then the man gets shot with another arrow in exactly the same place. It’s not just double the pain, it’s so much more. This links to how often something objectively hurts us, but how we compound it with all our other “stuff”.
Easy example: I stub my toe. It hurts and I’m in pain. Very quickly I start berating myself. Why was I walking around in my bare feet? Why wasn’t I paying attention? I should be more mindful. I should have…all that judgment and beating myself up is the second arrow.
For mental health it’s not just: I’m depressed. It’s: I’m depressed because I’m alone and I’m alone because something’s wrong with me. If I was x, y or z I wouldn’t be by myself and I’d have someone. And down and down the rabbit hole we go.
Sarah asked me to write about fighting stigma with parents and children and I thought an piece on parent shame about mental illness would fit in well and I’m not sure I’ve covered it on this site as much as I should have.
Many parents are so worried about what it means if their child is in therapy–if it says anything about them as moms and dads. I wanted to emphasize the point that just because parents seek professional support does not mean that they did something wrong. Sure, you may be judged by others. But when those “others” realize that their son or daughter is struggling with something, you are going to be their first call for moral support and a referral.
Let me know what you think about the article: Reducing Shame When Seeking Help for Your Family and feel free to comment there or here with your own thoughts on parent shame about mental illness. While you’re there take a look at the other great articles on the site. Most are written, not by professionals, but by people living, working and, often, thriving with mental health issues.
Interested in reading more about Sarah? Check out her other site www.oldschoolnewschoolmom.com
If you’re considering meeting with a therapist about issues with parenting or concerns about your child please call or email for a free 20 minute phone consultation.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert. He is a Brooklyn therapist (as well as also seeing clients online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working with men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.