Parents of Children with Serious Mental Illness

Shrink Rap has a thought-provoking guest post--Stigma, Advocacy, and Having a Really Rough Time of It: From Guest Blogger Retriever--that speaks to the problems parents experience when their child has a serious mental illness.

In it, the mother of a child with autism and bipolar disorder movingly describes the parent-blaming, isolation, access to care, and insurance coverage issues that come with the territory. The stigma of mental illness prevents her from publicly advocating on behalf of her child and others like him. Anonymous posts like hers provide an avenue for educating others about parents' struggles to secure adequate treatment for a mentally ill child.

The public mental health system strives to provide a "continuum of care" for children with serious mental illness. In reality, there is a significant gap between short-term inpatient stabilization and once-a-week outpatient treatment as usual. Parents are frequently left to fill the gap themselves due to a lack of community resources.

It's no wonder that some emotionally and financially exhausted parents give up their children to the foster-care system. Tragically, they are forced to "abandon" their child and be charged with neglect so that their child can receive the wrap-around services he or she needs (and deserves).

There is something seriously wrong with this picture.


  1. See our story here of trading custody rights for mental healthcare

    Click on the tab marked "He's My Son" and watch the video

  2. I watched your video. Very powerful and very sad. The system doesn't work for children like your son. I also believe that not enough foster care children get effective trauma-focused treatment early enough to make a difference. Too many are mis-diagnosed and over-medicated while the impact of early trauma on their emotional symptoms and behavior problems is overlooked and untreated. The combination of abuse, trauma, and disrupted attachment make some of these children very challenging to parent, and I salute the foster and adoptive parents who take them into their families.


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