Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 21st 2013 Contents "Children of mentally ill parents," the Examiner
article continues, "usually don t know what normal,
stable behaviour is.
"Such children are often...subjected to harsh crit-
icism and insults, physical violence disguised as
discipline, or worse. The psychological damage
often takes years to undo, and may last a lifetime."
For a period of my adult life during my late 20s
and early 30s, I had stopped seeing my doctors,
thrown away the medication and all but convinced
myself, with the urgings of some influential people,
that I shouldn t be taking such harsh drugs. There
was nothing in place to monitor my decision.
Coincidentally, those were the early childhood
years of my son. So, if I ve raised a normal child
the credit would have to go to outside support or
to his inner strength.
Then too, like all mentally ill parents, I must hope
that he has matured beyond the tumultuous years
with an inner strength that will blame the illness
and not his mother s efforts at parenting.
I speak for all mothers/parents who have lived
out this scenario.
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS
I feel strongly that among the social services
offered in T&T, there must be one to protect children
from the unintentional abuse that can be inflicted
by mentally ill parents.
If we are to consider the global statistic of one-in-
four for mental illnesses, and the standard family as
four people, then we must assume that almost every
household has a person with a mental illness.
That having been acknowledged, I live for the day
when there ll be a state system established with com-
munity collaboration to treat with the required psy-
cho-education, therapy and medication, protection
and subventions for all families in the long term and
for families with a diagnosed adult/child in the short
It s just my starting point for mental-health reform.
Many parents with mental-health issues can cope
with raising their children effectively and without
abuse. But where help is needed it should be available,
and where intervention is necessary, the health sector
must be armed with the relevant authority, expertise,
and facilities to mediate without compounding the
Some countries view preventive measures for children
of mentally ill parents as a priority and administer
properly evaluated programmes of intervention.
The UK guide for children living with a mentally
ill parent says, "Not all parents and children will need
the support of health and social care, but those that
do will need to get support that is acceptable, accessible,
and effective for the whole family."
And according to the American Academy of Child
and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), "Essential pre-
requisites for success include appropriate, specialised
treatment of the parental illness, psycho-educative
measures, and special support (eg self-help groups)
as indicated by the family s particular needs."
The AACAP site also lists the following protective
factors that can decrease the risk to children in such
• Knowledge that their parent(s) is ill and that
they---the child, and also the parent/s---are not
• Help and support from family members
• A stable home environment
• Psychotherapy for the child and the parent(s)
• A sense of being loved by the ill parent
• A naturally stable personality in the child
• Positive self-esteem
• Inner strength and good coping skills in the child
• A strong relationship with a healthy adult
• Friendships, positive peer relationships
• Interest in and success at school
• Healthy interests outside the home for the child
• Help from outside the family to improve the
family environment (for example, marital psy-
chotherapy or parenting classes)
Despite the presence of mental illness in a parent,
children can experience healthy emotional development
if attention is paid to their upbringing either through
professional counselling of the child or therapy for
the entire family.
The idea, therefore is to have in T&T an active men-
tal-health outreach programme where qualified people
are paying attention to the needs of the family, possibly
starting with follow-up and follow-through with those
diagnosed and admitted/discharged from state hospitals
Primarily, our mental-health services are granted
when/if accessed by individuals, but the nature of the
illnesses requires that at times, someone with more
clarity and the requisite expertise and experience
should apply some type of intervention.
Such intervention can eliminate abuse and help
engender "normal" growth and development in children
since, "the mentally ill parent cannot teach a child
how to trust people, supply role models for normal
behaviour, or help children understand life.
Blame the illness, not your parent
CAROLINE C RAVELLO
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Links Archive August 20th 2013 August 22nd 2013 Navigation Previous Page Next Page