Raising mentally ill children is no easy task. Having tuned in this week to “psych week” on Discovery Fit & Health, I must admit that my heart aches for these families. I watched episodes about children with bipolar disorder, autism, and schizophrenia. Discovery Channel did an excellent job producing these shows, but they were difficult to watch. They really did capture the reality that these families live with daily, and also did a follow up piece at the end of each episode, which shined a glimmer of hope.
The families of these mentally ill children must deal with tantrums and mood swings daily, not to mention genuine safety concerns for both the children and themselves. Most feel that they cannot go to many public places out of fear of their child’s behavior. Many of these children had been repeatedly hospitalized after threatening or being in danger of harm to themselves or others. In one family, the couple described the toll it takes on their marriage, saying that they don’t go on vacations, to parties, or out to restaurants because of their children’s needs. So this couple, which most needs a support system, ends up completely isolated and kid-focused. Their days are spent dealing with tantrums and doing their best to keep everyone safe, as their children sometimes attack one another.
One mom lost her job as a result of having to leave to deal with her child at daycare so frequently. A grandmother was raising four bipolar grandchildren. All of the families faced ostracism and bullying. And none of us could’ve ever imagined what really went on inside these homes had Discovery Channel not done this show. I was particularly touched when one boy was having a violent tantrum and making threats. The camera crew asked if they should stop filming, and this brave mother replied that most people wouldn’t want you to see this, but she wants everyone to see it. How else will they know?
To all of the families on this show, thank you for allowing us to into your home and your life, for in just a few minutes I caught a glimpse of how hard it really is to raise mentally ill children. To these families and all of you out there dealing with this and struggling, you are brave and heroic, each and every one of you. Reach out and make sure to surround yourself with caring, loving people. You need and deserve all the support you can get. To everyone else, reach out to someone who may need support and a friend, and don’t be so quick to judge.