Conversations: 6 Mental Illness Advocacy Tips (pt 2)

March 6, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

In my last post I shared three tips for having tough conversations with loved ones about your child’s mental illness. If you haven’t had a chance to read them, check them out. Here are my final three tips on how to advocate for your child and get support from others. Tough conversations are hard, but with these tips, people can come around.

Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 4

Here are 3 tips to help you discuss your child's mental illness with family members
Go slowly.

Conversations take time. I knew before saying the first word that my father would have a difficult time with it. He simply did not believe in the reality of mental health (even though by then I'd graduated with a Master's in Mental Health Counseling and he was proud of that). The conversation began back then and continues today with me providing my father with nuggets of knowledge about Bob's diagnosis.

Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 5

Know when to take a break.

Having a talk like this was not only anxiety provoking, but emotionally intense. I loved my father but needed him to understand how much I would do for Bob's mental health and well-being; even to the point of facing a huge fear and asserting myself with my father. I also knew that I needed to give my father time to think about the things I shared. I didn't expect change to happen overnight, but my father's perspective has softened because he had time to reflect on our talk.

Mental Illness Advocacy Tip 6

Expect the worst; Hope for the best.

This was a phrase I learned when I was a certified emergency medical technician (many moons ago). I expected my father to be upset because he did not (and still doesn't) like being challenged. So, I knew talking about this would upset him. Even knowing this, I also had hope that my father would come to see that Bob's ADHD was real. That Bob was not intentionally misbehaving but that his symptoms were out of his control.

Hopefully these tips and my experience will help with you with challenging talks with your loved ones. It isn't easy and is a process, but it can be done. Also remember that conversations need to be on-going so that awareness of your child's mental illness can grow. And if the person doesn't respond no matter what you say? With love, you can have a relationship with that person, but keep other people in your village that DO understand or want to understand what you're going through.

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, March 6). Conversations: 6 Mental Illness Advocacy Tips (pt 2), HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

April, 1 2013 at 12:07 am

How can I provide the best care for my child who has been diagnosed with ADHD (who is not quite four),when my spouse thinks that this condition is as imaginary as the Easter Bunny or the Boogieman? It is frustrating to talk to him, and I seem to get nowhere fast. I worry that my son won't get the help that he needs (I want to go through behavioral therapy first before resorting to medications.) because my husband is so resistant to the diagnosis.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 2 2013 at 4:37 pm

Hi Wenonah,
Thanks for stopping by. It sounds as if you're just starting your journey with the process of tough conversations. For now, I'd focus on your child's functioning at home and in school. It seems as if trying to convince your husband is worse than dealing with your child's ADHD. I'm curious as to why you think your child won't get the help he needs when you can give consent to things. Behavior therapy is a good way to manage ADHD symptoms. You can also have your husband speak to your child's teacher (if he is in pre-school) or the person who diagnosed him with ADHD. It is best that a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist give your husband the explanation of the disorder as well as to answer any questions he may have. In my case, Bob's father and I weren't together when Bob needed his evaluation. I have full custody of Bob, which means I have all the decision-making power. Being that you're married, it makes things a little tricky. Accept that your husband will be in denial for some time. I know I was in denial for a long time and it was all due to my dayjob. But, when you know your child is smart and he just can't focus well enough to earn the grades he should, that's a problem. If your child can't make friends because he's inattentive and impulsive or always getting into trouble, that's a problem. At the end of the day, the issue is how your child is doing. If he isn't doing well due to ADHD, it is out of his control and up to you as his parents to help him. Just remember that while your husband maybe resistant, you aren't and that means you CAN get your son the help he needs. Good luck!

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