Parents as Valuable Allies in Mental Illness Treatment

July 13, 2011 Randye Kaye

My brain is still absorbing all I have learned, ideas I've been introduced to, and the amazing people I met at last week's NAMI National Convention. (read Hold onto the Hope: NAMI National Convention) I'll do my best to share some of this wisdom with you here, as I file these amazing possibilities next to the reality of my son Ben's current relapse.

The nurse on the psych unit where Ben is still a patient calls to inform me that Ben has been in "an incident." My pulse jumps up by about 20 beats - what Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor would say is my amygdala sensing that "I am not safe" - and I ask for details. "Oh, don't worry," the nurse says, sensing what is probably my primary fear,

"Ben is fine and he is taking his meds. It's just that he was punched in the face today by a patient having an episode."

Parents Efforts to Help Their Mentally Ill Children Still Undermined

Punched in the face? My Ben? My gentle son? I honestly don't think he has ever been punched in his life - ever!

It turns out he's fine, but he had been scared. Of course. The nurse says the only reason she called me is because she was required to - sine I am Ben's conservator. And, once again, I silently thank whoever taught me - probably another NAMI parent - that becoming Ben's conservator would be essential. Without this "right", I would know nothing about what's going on with my son. And I need to, as much of the supervision of his so-called "outpatient care" will rest with me.
Susan Inman, the author of the wonderful Canadian memoir After Her Brain Broke, Helping My Daughter Recover Her Sanity , wrote a wonderful article called Help Us Help Our Children about the folly of blaming parents for mental illness and the need to include them as allies. (Also watch Schizoaffective Disorder in My Family interview with Susan Inman.). Inman says:

Even though the blaming of parents for serious mental illnesses is no longer overt in many environments, the covert blaming causes many difficulties for parents. Even if parents aren't openly blamed, their efforts on behalf of their ill children are very often undermined.

That, according to Inman, is true in Canada - and I know it's true here in the U.S.

Parents Play Important Role in Caring for Mentally Ill Children

Being Ben's conservator has helped me to demand the right to receive information about his finances, his condition at the hospital, his medications - all facts I need to catch him if he falls. It's not everything. It doesn't change the attitudes of those who think Ben "ought" to be able to handle his job, show up for meds, realize the importance of treatment, take care of his own needs, without help. Believe me, I'd like nothing better than to be able to end this "control" with a clear faith that Ben can be totally on his own. I would dearly love to "let go" of my child's life and let him make his own mistakes, as many advise me. That would be fabulous - but look at where the untreated and unguided mentally ill are often found: homeless on the streets and/or in jail. I will not let that happen to my son.

I am not to blame for his mental illness. He is not to blame for having schizophrenia. But we can partner to help him - if providers, and the legislators that create the shackles that prevent them doing their jobs, will realize the value of families in that treatment.

We must demand to be heard.

APA Reference
Kaye, R. (2011, July 13). Parents as Valuable Allies in Mental Illness Treatment, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Randye Kaye

July, 13 2011 at 1:45 pm

Bravo! You're a great mother and he's blessed to have you. Never forget that. One heck of a woman. <3

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
July, 13 2011 at 2:08 pm

Thank you! The number of hospital staff members who tell me "he's lucky to have you" is astounding. Makes me think about all the families who may have given up in despair, in confusion. But I found NAMI, and the power of education, and the support of others - like you just gave me. Thanks again :)

Terry Garahan
July, 14 2011 at 2:53 pm

Family is at the heart of any real progress in mental health treatment. If you are interested in an interesting blend of policy discussion and personal stories, take a look at my blog:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Randye Kaye
July, 14 2011 at 3:39 pm

A Thoughtful blog entry, full of insight! Thanks for commenting here.

Dr Musli Ferati
July, 19 2011 at 12:11 pm

The role of parents in the management of mentally ill children is manifold important. Because children are vulnerable and sensitive subject of family and social community, it ought to provide the necessary helping and support from others, amongst whose parent take the main place. But, parent may plays negative role as helpmate of their innate heirs whose suffer from any mental illness. A very hard handicap for parent is the sense of blame and shame to their mentally ill children, that decrease the efforts of parent in the successful treatment of respective illness. For these and others meaningful reasons, it should to inform the parent on the nature of psychic disorder from which undergo their child. Every parent must to posses elementary knowledge on respective mentally disease. Otherwise, their helping might be contrary as hyperprotective or negligent breeding. By my persuasion parents with mentally ill child ought to be like parent with mentally health ones, because the aim of the treatment is recovery of life affinity to mentally ill child. The best way for this purpose is to face the mentally ill child with real daily circumstances under common life events.

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