September 27, 2012

Photo of Ziaul, a Time to Change bloggerIn my personal experience the support from my parents has been essential to my recovery. Since my diagnosis of depression and a first episode of psychosis they have really been there for me. They visited me every day when I was admitted to hospital which helped me to stay optimistic and gave me something to look forward to every day while I was in there. Without my family I don’t think I would have recovered as quickly or be feeling as great as I do now.

I realise many parents may find it hard to discover that their child has a mental health issue as there is so much prejudice and stigma attached to it. However, many people with mental health issues go on to have satisfying and fulfilling lives.

This list is made up of tips that helped me personally, and although each case is an individual matter based on individual circumstances, I hope the following tips will help you to help your child.

1. Listen and try to be understanding – Listen to your child and don’t judge them. My own family told me I could talk to them about anything and having them there to talk to really helped me come to terms with what was going on in my own mind.

2. Show them affection – Try to tell them and show them how much you care. Since my diagnosis my parents have told me many times how much they love and care for me and this has made me feel wanted and loved. It has also helped me to feel a part of the family and I now know that I have somewhere and someplace to belong.

3. Research the condition – There are many different mental illnesses, read up on your child’s specific condition. This will help you better understand not only the condition but also what helps recovery and what can prevent relapses in the future. My dad purchased books to learn more about my condition and how to help. This made me feel like my parents were on my side and were doing all they could to help me. It also made me feel like I wasn’t going through it alone.

4. Don’t blame yourself – It is easy for a parent to blame themselves, somehow thinking they have caused the illness either through genetics or the environment they have raised their child in. This, however, in many circumstances, is not the case at all. The only thing you can do is be there for your child and help them.

5. Encourage social interaction with friends and family – My parents encouraged me to go out and meet people and also to maintain contacts. I found this extremely helpful. Also, the Early Intervention team set up regular social groups and I have made many friends through this and participated in a variety of fun activities. There are schemes such as Uthink which is run by Rethink Mental Illness as well as other youth groups run by various charities. The key thing though is to not rush your child into anything, it will take time.

6. Provide a peaceful and loving environment – A loving environment can be so helpful for your child’s recovery and wellbeing. My parents have provided me with a very calm and peaceful home environment since I left the hospital and purposely refrain from any arguing or conflicts, which I really appreciate and am massively grateful for. The whole mood and atmosphere of my household has improved and, not only me, but everyone is a lot happier and more cheerful.

7. Do activities together – When my sister comes to visit, she, my brother and I always do at least one activity together. Activities we’ve done together include going to the cinema, restaurants, the zoo, the sealife centre, amongst many other things. I have found that doing these activities has brought everyone in my family closer together and has caused us to bond so much more. Ask your child what they would like to do. Enjoy the time you spend together but understand that your child might take time before they start enjoying activities again.

8. Let them know they can talk to you anytime about anything – I have been fortunate in this respect as my family have been so understanding and just want me to stay well. They are always there for me when I need to talk to them, whether it’s to do with mental health issues or anything else. My dad doesn’t talk very much but he always listens to me about whatever I want to talk about and this has helped me to get things off my chest and feel relaxed. Your child may not want to talk at first, or may only say a few words, but always reassure them they can talk to you as little or as much as they want in their own time.

9. Know that recovery will occur over time and will not happen overnight – In my case the effects of psychosis, after taking medication for it, took four to five months to completely wear off. Also, I had been depressed for a much longer period of my life but the medication prescribed to me has been amazing and has completely lifted my mood. I stopped feeling depressed extremely quickly, within a matter of days. However, I have been told by several mental health professionals that medication does not work for everyone. Mental health issues can be extremely complex and recovery can take anything from a few days to months to years. In some cases, the illness may be lifelong but coping strategies and/or medication can be used to manage it.

10. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from mental health professionals – Please don’t be afraid to seek help or advice from mental health professionals. They have a vast amount of experience in dealing with people suffering from mental health issues and are an excellent source to get help and advice from. There are also support groups available for parents, guardians and carers to help deal with the whole situation, such as, carer support groups.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do to help your child suffering from mental health problems. There are many others things you can do but I hope these 10 tips will be a starting point when helping your child.

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Tips for Parents

Thanks for that Ziaul, sharing your experiences gives me a a parent food for thought. Good luck on your road to recovery.

Thank you

Hi Chris, Thanks so much for your comment. I hope my blog helps you in some way. If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask, I will do all I can to help... Best wishes, Ziaul

Thank you for this...

I absolutely love this blog. I really wish my parents could have read this when I was growing up. I still find it hard to believe that my 'nice, middle class' parents didn't help me when I was experiencing mental health problems throughout my childhood and teenage years; it's one of the things I look back on in my life and still find confusing, though I have a good relationship with them now. My mum has recently apologised to me (which meant a lot) and explained that she had no idea how to help me at the time. Just a hug or a kind word would have helped. It would have been nice not to feel that my distress was going unnoticed. Because of my own experiences, I feel very strongly that education about mental health illness - for all ages - is very important. Blogs like this are a fantastic step in the right direction.

Thank you for your comment

Hi, Thanks for your kind comments regarding my blog. I am sorry to hear your parents were not as supportive as you would have liked through your childhood and teens. My CPN has said many mental health professionals find it difficult to differentiate between 'normal' teenage behaviour and a mental health problem and that's why unfortunately many mental health problems are discovered and diagnosed in later life, so I guess for parents it would be even harder... That's not to make excuses for them but just a thought. It's funny though, like you say, a hug or a kind word can mean so much and it's simple and free to do... I'm really glad you have a good relationship with them now though and that your mum has apologised. It shows they understand they could have done more no matter how big or small. It really interested me when you said you were middle class as that was such a huge issue for me and one factor relating to my depression. My parents have never worked and I used to think if I was middle class myself than a lot of the problems I had or felt wouldn't have been an issue. However, I now realise that mental health issues occur for any number of reasons and can affect anyone, regardless of class, race, age, etc. I wish you all the very best for the future and please keep in touch if you would like to. Thank you again for your comment and kind words... Ziaul

Just to throw a spanner in the works

Hi, I would just like to say that there is some great tips and information here, but... ...I my self have found that my parents are the only people I cant tell about any of my mental health issues and my mum is very understanding and works for the NHS and so would have endless resourses to help me. I would like help with the best way to convice your parents that you are being serious and looking for help as the subject has been brought up once and this has been shuned as part of growing up. I dont know how to tell them that I on a very regular occation burst into tears for no reason and have break downs at situations that effect me in a more sevire way. Many thanks James

Reply to you

Hi there, Firstly, I just want to thank you for your comment. It means a lot that you've read my blog and commented on it. I'm glad you think there is some good information in it... I am sorry to hear you don't feel that you can talk to your parents, unfortunately I think this may be the case for a number of people. I think it may help to bring up the issue with your parent/s when there are no distractions around. Being persistent should also help as it shows it's not something insignificant but extremely important. Who do you find it easier to talk to? Your mum or your dad? Maybe you could approach the one you feel more comfortable with. You could even get books out on mental health issues and show them - this may give them the idea that it is something they really need to look into for the sake of your health. Tell them that their help and support is what you need and it is worse dealing with it alone. Maybe you could raise the topic with your parents again but if they choose to ignore it ask them why. You could tell them that it is affecting your life in a big way and you don't know what to do. As parents this should make them take notice and see that their child is in distress and needs them to listen. I hope this may help you to talk your parents. If there is anything else you think I could be of assistance with then please let me know :-) Best wishes, Ziaul

Great blog

Hi Ziaul I thought your blog was great and actually applies also to dealing with your child (most of the tips anyway) even if it doesn't experience mental health issues. My daughter is a very sensitive child, who finds it hard to focus. She has still problems with saying goodbye in the morning although she is now 8. We've asked for help from the school and I hope to prevent that she develops greater problems. Especially since I have myself just recovered from a depressive episode about 9 months ago (I'm bipolar). And I really wanted to reassure you that mental health issues can affect anybody. I'm well educated and have a good job within the NHS. I hope your recovery will go really well, Ziaul and good luck!

Reply to your comment

Hi Stephanie, Thank you and I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to leave a comment. I hope your daughter doesn't develop any greater problems but I can tell from your comment that she has a mum who loves her very much and will support her and be there for her no matter what, and that will mean so much to her as she grows up :-) All the very best, Ziaul

Talking to parents

Like an earlier commenter I have made a conscious decision not to talk to my mother about things any more than I need to. I don't mention things to my mother because it would be the classic jumping in and wanting to sort out the problem rather than really listening - its her nature and I accept that. I did talk a bit about things to my father but often found that difficult because it felt like doubling the pain and despair rather than sharing it. Relationships with parents can be very complex - and I don't think I could understate the importance of not blaming yourself if you are a parent because you are talking about a relationship which is more than the sum of the two people concerned. I find my relationship with my mother very difficult because it is emotionally demanding and that is one of the things I struggle with. It isn't that she was a bad mother or that I am a bad daughter just that the combination isn't a comfortable one. My advise to parents would be to let children know that they are there and will listen if their son/daughter wants to talk BUT IT IS ALSO OKAY IF THEY DON'T WANT TO TALK because there are other ways of being there for someone.

Thanks for your comment

Hi Karen, I'm sorry that you don't feel like you can talk to your parents. I was wondering if that's the case, would you be able to talk to a nurse, counsellor or psychologist, etc? I know the NHS offer someone to talk to and all you talk about will remain confidential. I've found talking to someone does help quite a bit and allows you to get issues 'off your chest'. I fully agree with you when mentioned that parents should listen to their kids if they want to talk but it is also okay if they don't want to talk as they can be there for their child in other ways. I mentioned that as one of the tips as I think it's really important for a parent to realise and understand that... Thanks again for your comment and I really hope all goes well for you :-) Ziaul

Talking to parents about your condition

When I was first diagnosed with depression, (i.e. given a 'label',) my parents response was; 'But what have you got to be depressed about?' Which of course was the question I was asking myself, so by telling them I actually reinforced my despair. I do feel the ten suggestions given above are excellent, but above all, I would say to a parent that every child needs love, especially one with mental health problems. The sad thing is they may refuse to accept it. In that case, just remind them from time to time that you are there for them whenever they need to talk.

Completely agree with you...

Hi Tony, Just want to thank you for your comment on my blog. I hope you're having a brilliant festive period and that you had a good Christmas and enjoy the new year :-) I completely agree with you about the child needing love from their parents. It's so so important to feel that you are loved and wanted in life. It is a really vital point in helping a child with a mental health problem (and, like you say, even one who doesn't have a MH issue). Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Ziaul

My Daughter (21)

Hi - This is my first time blogging so bear with me. My lovely daughter suffers from depression. She has been unwell for 2 years now and only told us 9 months ago. I honestly believe that we all are a very close family but I never knew she was unwell and had, with the help of a close friend, sought medical help and councilling. When she sat me down to tell me I was utterly shocked, yet, so so proud that she been geting help and medication to feel well. Very soon afterwards I realised and this thought has worried me - why did she not tell us sooner ? I would not change anything about my daughter and particularily would not change anything about our relationship so dont understand why she could not tell us sooner. Here's another problem - I'm afraid to ask her how she is - should I - what would I say - she appears to be well just now and having some good days and dont like to bring the subject of her mental health up in case it makes her feel bad . What advise could you give me please. ps sorry for the questions but really have no idea what to do for the best .. Clare

Hi Clare, there are tips for

<p>Hi Clare, there are <a href="/talk-about-mental-health/tips">tips for how to talk to friends and family about their experiences of mental help problems</a> on our website. If you want more information and advice you can take a look at the infromation and support services listed on the Mind website:</p>

thank you!

My teenage daughter is suffering from depression at the moment and in my surfing for advice today (nearly 3 hours so far!)your beautifully written 10 tips has been the best I've seen yet. Such warmth and empathy. I hope you are keeping well now Ziaul.

Thank you

Hi Debbie, Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad my tips were useful to you. Sometimes it's great to go online and connect with something or get advice from it so I'm really happy my 10 tips did that. I hope you and your daughter are doing well. Very best wishes, Ziaul

Thank You!

As a parent of a child on the road to recovery from depression and PTSD your blog helps me to feel that I've at least tried to help him a little. Your last tip about seeking help from mental health professionals is a good one but in our experience a pointless one. We tried so hard to get help for our son when we realised he was suffering with depression and what we believed was the onset of possible psychosis, but they weren't interested. Just 2 weeks before our son tried to take his own life our local mental health services offered our son an appointment for 4 months down the line. How do parents get help and support before things have gone too far?

Hi Emma, that sounds like a

Hi Emma, that sounds like a very difficult position to be in. At Time to Change, we focus on challenging stigma and discrimination in society, so we're not able to provide individual or emergency support for people in crisis. But there are lots of people who can. They are listed here: Hope you find the support you need. Take care, Dom at Time to Change

Caring for a loved one

I am a parent of a child in thier early 20's on the road to recovery. In my parents support group, the question of "how can we help our child" is asked over and over again. As parents, especially if the child is living at home, we are the ones that have the most opportunity to interact with our child; and yet, especially in the early stages of illness, those interactions can be agressive, confusing and confronting. Parents are hungry for resources that are seemingly abundant for the person with mental health issues and scant for caregivers; and in particular for parents of young adults. I have often thought that parents could benefit from some kind of training that teaches us about things like your tips and how to implement them n ourhomes and families. I also related to the other comments by people who found it hard to tell thier parents what they were going through. There is often blame of the parents by others who do not understand mental health and I admit to blaming myself. I discovered that blame is a negative emotion that keeps you stuck in the past (of what could have been but wasn't). What helped me and my child was to do some hard introspection and learn how to change the interaction with my child in a way that was compassionate yet fostered growth. It took me a year to embrace hope for recovery, stop trying to "fix" things and just be patient and love unconditionally; which is what I think the underlying principles of your tips are. Most importantly want to thank you for being a website that fights stigma and offers hope and high expectations for recovery. I will be sharing your blog with our group.

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