April 16, 2009

Caretaking a child with a mental illness

April Showers bring May flowers

Or so they say. Mother Nature is testing that cliche this year with rain and snow continuing into mid-April. Drizzly weather puts me in a ruminative mood, which is both good and bad, depending on the rumination. ha!

I posted a video yesterday that was directed at our youth, describing warning signs in potentially dangerous relationships. Those of us who've been hanging out the on the web for several years, are witnessing the impact of thousands of people working together to educate people about normal versus abnormal relationships. I hope our young people will pay attention to the enormous effort people are making in their behalf. If they're like most generations though, they'll ignore our warnings since stuff like that would never happen to them, right?

I also read an interesting article published by Psyche Central yesterday that pertains to my nephew. It stated:

"Contrary to common stereotypes, individuals with major mental disorders are more likely to become victims of violent crimes when they are experiencing an increase in symptoms than they are to commit crime...In addition, individuals with mental disorders are particularly vulnerable for victimization during times of homelessness and when suffering from alcohol abuse."~Victimization of People with Mental Illness

Both the video and this article highlight the importance of teaching children to take responsibility for their mental illness in the same way we'd encourage any child with a physical ailment to let people know when they were suffering. While we, as caretakers, continue learning about the symptoms of bipolar, we must also teach our children to spot check warning signs that their thinking processes are 'off'.

We've recently been talking about discernment. What's a good friend and what's a bad friend? How he can know a true friend from one who will encourage him to do things that are contrary to our family values? This means we're talking openly about right-and-wrong behavior which ain't easy to do in a culture of moral relativity. However, the LAW made this process much easier for us since there are no shades of gray when it comes to breaking social rules.

I know this sounds 'cold' but I am grateful he got in trouble at age 17. Maybe we have a chance to help him cope with a lifelong illness. He needs to take charge of his mental health because we cannot know what he's thinking unless he tells us. It's tricky to hold a child to consequences while also encouraging him to trust us as having his best interests at heart.

My nephew is embarrassed to have bipolar and would prefer pretending there's nothing wrong with him. Like most kids---he wants to 'fit in'. He doesn't want to be different. He resists being judged as the kid with mental issues. The boy everyone is afraid of because he's not like other teenagers.

I think we're making progress, though. Which is encouraging.

“Most of us know people who have mental disorders. These are our family members and our friends and so we should care about their victimization experience,” Teasdale said.

"Stereotypes persist because people are unaware of the victimization risk to people with mental illness. If they learned that victimization risk were higher than the violence commission rates, I think that would help alleviate some of that stigma and help people think about people with mental disorders in a different way.” (excerpted from Psych Central article linked above)

I never expected to be an advocate for people with mental illnesses. I feel it's imperative to reduce the social stigma by letting people know that their fears about people with mental illnesses are often unfounded. My nephew is more likely to be victimized by people abusing his vulnerability than he is to victimize others.

As caretakers, we're teaching him to protect himself by recognizing when he's isolating himself from his family because he finally found a friend---who 'accepted' him.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...