A grieving parent has advice for parents of children with a mental illness, including people with autism spectrum disorder.
Key points:Emotional abuse is common among families of people with mental illnessEmotional neglect and abuse are also commonThe family of a young girl in the US is being urged to intervene after she was beaten by her mother for her mental healthThe family are also concerned about the effects of mental health conditions on childrenIn a new study, psychologist Dr Amy McKeown, author of The Fierce, spoke to ABC News about the role of mental illness in the lives of families and people with a psychiatric condition.
“When you are a parent of a child with a disability, you are not just dealing with the physical side of grief, you’re dealing with mental health, the emotional side of it,” she said.
“And when you are dealing with that, you have to be very aware of the fact that it can go both ways.”
Dr McKeon said parents often felt overwhelmed by their grief, which led to emotional abuse.
“We often don’t have the time or resources to deal with it all in one day, and so it can become quite a vicious cycle,” she explained.
“It’s a cycle of being emotionally abused, being emotionally neglected, and then having that emotional and physical abuse continue until the person stops being able to cope.”
The study found that many parents were reluctant to intervene, fearing it would hurt their child’s mental health and possibly make it more difficult for them to cope.
But Dr McKean said there were positive steps you can take to help your child’s emotional health and well-being.
“The first thing is to acknowledge that your child has a mental health condition, and that you care for them,” she told ABC News.
“Second, you should be open and honest about your emotions.
Third, you need to know that your feelings are valid and that they’re not wrong, that they are part of who you are, and you can’t be angry at your child.”
Dr Amy McQuaid has been a psychologist for more than 20 years, but was the first to study the role mental illness plays in the families of individuals with mental illnesses.
“For a long time I didn’t know how to tell the parents of people who had been diagnosed with a diagnosis how their child was doing,” she says.
“I think I have learned that a lot of parents are very anxious and they have this fear that they’ve just got to get them back into a normal state, and they’ve got to make sure that their child doesn’t get upset.”
Dr David Molloy, from the University of NSW’s School of Social Work, said parents need to be aware of how their children are feeling, but the key to stopping the “frenzy” and “rage” was to stop “focusing on the negative”.
“We need to recognise that emotional neglect and emotional abuse are both part of what makes these families vulnerable, and these people have very complex problems and emotions,” he said.
The study looked at the emotional, psychological and social wellbeing of more than 2,500 families with a child in the United States.
Topics:mental-health,psychology,family-and-children,family,psychiatric-disorders,mental-behaviour,family/children,community-and/or-society,united-statesFirst posted November 11, 2018 12:03:22Contact Rebecca PoulterMore stories from Northern Territory