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10 Things I'd Like to Tell Parents of Children With Mental Illnesses

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1. Believe them.

The most important thing for someone with a mental illness is for someone to believe them. Often, we face disbelief and it shatters us the most. Your children want you to believe them. When they say they are not getting up because they are tired, please do not judge them as being lazy. Trust them. It will honestly help them a lot. When they see their parents trust them, they will be more open to sharing their thoughts with you.

2. Understand and support them.

They need you. No matter how old they get, they’ll always need your support. There’s a lot going on in your child’s mind. They may feel shattered and broken. Their mind may be a dark and dreary place full of unimaginable fears and constant worry. They may not know what’s going on with them (in case they are still undiagnosed), which is why your support matters the most.

3. Getting out of the house won’t “cure” them.

Yes, you heard it right. Going out of the house and getting fresh air will not make them perfectly well. Yes, it may be a good distraction, but sometimes it may prove disastrous. A person dealing with depression wouldn’t like going out of the house. Being in a room full of people won’t make their loneliness go away. It might make them feel more lonely.

4. Your child with social anxiety cannot just go out and “make friends.”

One of the most common myths surrounding social anxiety is making friends and socializing helps in improving a person’s health. Social anxiety is a disease, which means people who deal with it are unable to socialize. Any sort of interaction, especially in big crowds, can cause panic attacks. Do not force your child to go out and meet new people. Try to understand it may not be possible for them at this stage. They feel much better in the security of their homes.

5. They are not just “freaking out.”

Panic attacks are real. I remember getting a really bad panic attack when I was around 9 or 10. I clearly remember a family member saying, “C’mon, stop acting.” The attack was so severe I couldn’t breathe properly while everyone around me laughed and made fun of my “acting.” Your child is not freaking out. Your child is not throwing tantrums. They are going through a phase where nothing makes sense and they don’t know how to control their thoughts. Support them.

6. They are not doing it for attention.

Your child would probably rather start dancing in the middle of a lecture or eat 60 tacos at that taco truck in front of hundreds of people than pretend to be sick with a serious illness just for the sake of attention.

7. Don’t tell them to simply “try harder.”

Don’t put the blame on them. They have a serious mental illness and they are probably already trying much harder than you think.

8. They might engage in self harm and suicidal thoughts.

Do not condemn them. Instead, work with them. Get professional help. Encourage and help them involve themselves in healthy ways of coping.

9. Accepting help is not a sign of weakness.

Please, realize your child is ill and he/she needs help. You should be the first one to offer all kinds of help your child needs, but if it requires going to a professional, do not hesitate. Do not think of what your relatives, neighbors or friends will say. Your child might himself/herself be reluctant to ask for help. Please, encourage them. Take them to the doctor and hold their hand. They might find it traumatic to go through it on their own.

10. Last but not the least, be there for them.

Even though they live with a disease, they are still your children. They need you now more than ever before. They are already going through a difficult time. Your support and understanding can make their journey easier.

Listen to them. Motivate them. Talk to them. Make them feel protected and provide a safe environment in which they can share all their thoughts without any fear of judgement.

Remember, believe them. Understand them. Support them.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Originally published: August 18, 2016
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