My child is in the Psychiatric Hospital and no one cares

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was speaking to a friend today whose child was recently in the hospital, the Psychiatric Hospital to be exact. This smart, educated, kind, soft-spoken mom I have gotten to know because we both love and raise children with mental illness.

She was asking how things were going, knowing the past few weeks have been incredibly difficult with my son being unstable. As we discussed the ups and downs of mental illness, the stability and instability roller coaster, we discussed how the Stigma associated with Mental illness is still so wide-spread and doesn’t seem to be making any headway with culture and society understanding this. She commented that when she had to hospitalize her little boy, who is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, a few months ago, that no one acknowledged it. Unlike when someone is in the hospital for an illness, cancer, injury etc…neighbors usually rally to the family to offer support. Well meaning and kind neighbors bring casseroles and food by for the family to “help  out”, cards are sent to the family and/or person in the hospital. But, when you are in a metal hospital NONE of this happens. No cards came to her family or the child. No one asked if she needed help with anything. It was simply not mentioned.

Why?

Why is that?

Why is it that when you are in the hospital because your mind is “sick” that no one cares? Why is it different from your body being sick or broken? We understand Autism, and how that manifests itself in the childs behavior, actions, social functioning. Mental illness is no different, it can and does affect people the same way, in varying degrees. Is it because most people with a mental illness “look normal“?  You can’t see what their disability or challenges are? You can not see the sick mind?

I have been told that too. “Your son looks so normal. I would never know anything was wrong with him”

Well….ok. No, you can’t SEE OCD/Depression/Anxiety/Tourette’s or learning disabilities until and unless the symptoms of these are actively present in the person. But I can assure you, lack of any outward, visible “disability” does not lessen the severity.

Please, if you ever have a friend, a loved one that suffers from mental/emotional illness, hospitalized due to their illness, please don’t ignore them. Don’t pretend they aren’t really sick. Dont pretend they are there because they aren’t “strong” or can’t “handle things”.

They need help.

Help with a brain that has an illness, just like broken bones, diabetes, cancer, lupus, COPD and others.

Send a card. Bake a casserole. Offer a kind ear and understanding.

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14 thoughts on “My child is in the Psychiatric Hospital and no one cares

  1. This is a wonderful post, Kim. Mental illness is truly an illness. Something I’ve always understood from a personal perspective, because my mother, bless her was mentally ill, as I am. My poor mother didn’t really have the tools developed or the network to combat her problems. She was also married to my father, who was a wonderful man, although he was an alcoholic. Thankfully, he was never mean to me, and he always had a job. She was the problem, with acting out. (I’m an only child) But enough. Yes, mental illness is just that, ILLNESS. Why the stigma still pertains to any of the conditions we associate with mental illness is beyond me.

    Before I was diagnosed, I could clearly observe behavior that would prevent someone from functioning within a family, hold a job, go to school and perform well enough to succeed. I fail to understand why “mainstream” educators, counselors, and people who are in daily contact with the public at large and particularly children don’t recognize this. Further, why isn’t the public educated? Why is there still this refusal to “bring up to speed” the people who watch videos, TV, listen to YouTube? I cannot believe that Mental Illness is such an orphan that there is so little money to promote awareness. Well, yes, I can. I’m having my own struggle with Parkinson’s Disease; beyond silly. Again, I will share this with my writerly friends. This is astonishing, as are you, dear lady! Kudos and hugs!

  2. I never thought about it from a parent’s perspective. I myself suffer various “invisible” illnesses that seldom gain notice or lengthy sympathy, and I am only just now beginning to deal with all that mental fallout. It didn’t occur to me to stop and think about what parents must endure when they see their child manifesting these difficult issues. Probably because my own parents didn’t exactly have the tools to deal with me effectively, thoughts of other parents in similar predicaments just didn’t manifest for me. I am so glad to have read this, to have gained more perspective on how people who actually WANT to help their loved ones are still blocked from being able to do so, if not from their own lacking sympathy, then a lack of sympathy from others. I’m sorry. I’m sorry to you, and to your children, and to my parents, and to all parents who have to see their children suffer, and to all suffering children, and to all victims of mental illness. Please continue to share, to enlighten, to push forth information on an all too invisible problem. Thank you for this.

  3. What a great post. I hadn’t thought about it before but you are right it wouldn’t occur to me to send a card if a friend’s child was in hospital for a mental illness. But, i have no idea why the hell not. What a strange societal convention to ignore or under play an illness. Thanks so much for making me rethink my stupid approach.

  4. Bravo to you for getting help for your child. So often I see children who need mental health care but their parents are in denial. You are so right, mental health is every bit as important as physical health yet so many people put a stigma on mental health.

    Bravo also to you for spreading the word about the importance of mental health. I will share this post to help you let the world know this important message.

  5. I can’t imagine why people would behave differently. I don’t. The only difference I have found is that often there are more restrictions on what can be sent to the hospital and on visiting. But, all of these are easily distinguished with a call to the hospital, something I would do with any hospital before sending any patient, physically ill, mentally ill, or both, anything.

    As far as supporting the family, I can’t imagine not offering the same level of support. I think sometimes people don’t know what to say so they hide from the problem. They worry about upsetting the family. The only way to overcome that is, unfortunately, to be very proactive about needs. Tell people what you want, how you feel, that you want to talk, want support.

    Sometimes people fear what they don’t understand. Mental illness, particularly in children, often falls into that category. It is a sad truth but those affected by it must educate those around them in order to receive the support they need. People usually respond kindly and thoroughly when they understand what is needed and desired.

  6. Thank you for writing this. Having just admitted my daughter to an intensive outpatient hospitalization — you are SO right. Too many do not get it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. I haven’t gotten a card, phone call or so much as a cookie offered. I’m burning my candle at three ends between trips to the hospital, dealing with her twin brother (who also has Aspergers) and running a business. The kid who had cancer got fundraisers, parties, gifts and caring. I get…radio silence.

  7. When I was 14(ish, I think) I was that kid in the psychiatric hospital. I was the kid that no one spoke about. I was that kid that had many friends before she left and returned to very few. It was as if I was suddenly made of a glass so fragile that the slightest breath of air would shatter me. When they did speak to me, it was as if I was the greatest, coolest, smartest, funniest person alive. It made me feel awful that everyone was so uncomfortable around me that they had to lie.

    Mental illness is tough on everyone involved. I think that people very often don’t know what to say or how to say it. My heart goes out to you, your child, your friend and her child. Luckily, as those of us with mental illness are able to develop coping skills for ourselves.

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  9. My son has just been admitted to hospital and our greatest fear is that his ‘depression’ is actually borderline personality disorder. The people in our village are avoiding us and we’re normally the first to bring food to a wake or to call if a neighbour is in need. My heart is breaking for my son and it feels like someone has died. I have no idea what to do. I just pray to God that my lad gets better, or gets past this horrible thing that’s trying to claim him. Bless you for your Blog. I’m so lonely in my grief for my son and it’s a comfort to know that there are other Mum’s out there who understand; even as far away as America. X

  10. I have been hospitalized for mental illness three times (and been through several rounds of partial and intensive outpatient hospitalization), and no one ever sent me a single card or asked how I was doing. My family visited twice, ever. My husband was the only person who was ever truly supportive during these times (and he was only my boyfriend then). My sister was diagnosed with cancer last year, and while I feel terrible for her, it brings up so much pain to see everyone, like you said, rallying together for her and my family. It makes me feel so insignificant. I am now a mother, and the thought of that being my child no one cared about in a psychiatric hospital makes me want to cry. as hard as it was/is as the mental health sufferer, I think it would hurt so much more as a mother, seeing no one care about or ask about your child’s illness. I hope your son is doing better.

    • Im so sorry for your experience. It’s so hard. People don’t understand at all. They don’t u detest and illness of the mind, how debilitating it is, how real it is.

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