August 18, 2016

The ignorance and discrimination we were victims of will continue to destroy families and individuals unless public attitudes change.

Twenty-five years ago almost to the day I met a beautiful woman at a day centre for those living with mental health problems. I had been referred their due to my diagnosis of schizophrenia and was surprised to meet someone else with the same diagnosis; especially someone who glowed with life and could envision a future outside of the boundaries of the mental health system.

Fast forward 10 years and we not only shared a diagnosis but also a home, a life, and a desire to be wed and have a child. Having been in the ‘established’ mental health system for a decade now, we were well versed in the belief that as schizophrenics we were incapable of having a long-lasting meaningful relationship; let alone be parents! We were also aware of the common misconception that schizophrenia was likely to be passed on to any offspring via some sort of genetic hocus pocus.

However, as realists, we did have concerns; concerns regarding the affects of the medications my wife was prescribed at that time could have on our child, concerns regarding our abilities to be good parents. We consulted with psychiatrists and a decision was agreed to change the medication to one proven not to have any detrimental effects; we wed later that year and the following year my wife gave birth our beautiful little girl. Life was good.

Every new parent faces challenges which they cannot be fully prepared for, sleep deprivation and the emotional stresses regarding the wellbeing of children being just two, however our biggest challenge by far was to be the fight to keep our daughter. We had devised a plan well in advance of our daughter’s birth, a plan to share the care. This we believed would enable us both to get enough rest and enable the bond we had as a family to continue to flourish, but in our one-bedroom flat this proved to be impossible at that time. We both became sleep deprived, stressed and after a few months this resulted in my wife needing hospital admission. Luckily, a bed was found in one of the very few Mother and Baby units within the Psychiatric care system. Care received and crisis averted, my girls returned home to me approximately six weeks later.

A decision was made at this time to refer us to Social Services whom we were told may have been able to offer some support. A meeting was held to establish our problems, our needs and a plan set in motion. We felt a sense of shame that this was necessary, but accepted the support with nervous gratitude.

Reports from various health professionals were collated, including one from our health visitor stating our daughter was meeting all of the physical, emotion, and developmental targets for her age. Reports from the childminder reiterated the fact that our little girl was healthy and happy. A detailed inspection was carried out on our home and highly critical evaluations of our relationship, our personalities, and our mental health came next. Interviews/interrogations followed, culminating in a decision made by the head of Social Services that they were going to apply to have our daughter removed from our care permanently.

I do not possess the words to explain our feelings at this point. The strain put on our relationship by the divisive tactics employed by the very people we approached for help and support had severed the long-cherished connection between me and my wife. Our relationship continued to decline over the following months at which point we separated. I did not have the strength to instigate this but my wife did. She and our daughter moved into a two bedroom house soon after and we shared custody equally and attempted to give our girl a stable home and the love needed.

The home we shared once so bright and warm turned cold and dark on the day my girls left. Over the following weeks we had a number of meetings with Social Services, all ending with us going our separate ways. The pressure continued from those supposed to support us, with another threat to remove our daughter from us, and a prospective family being sought who were willing to adopt her.

I desperately tried to justify my desire to end my life. I even researched effective methods and wrote letters to my loved ones. But I had a mental image that I could not erase, an image of our little girl sitting on the floor, her arms reaching up to me and saying “Day Cug”! This was her way of asking “Dad Cuddle”. I cannot recount the number of times those words and that image saved my life.

If it were not for family members both from my own and my wife’s side offering support in the shape of a care-plan in case we both became unwell at the same time, I am convinced we would have lost our daughter into the system forever. Others like us are not so fortunate; we won, but many do not and will not in the future. It is my opinion that the ignorance, discrimination and stigma we were victims of will continue to destroy families and individuals unless public attitudes change.

The dark shadow of Social Services left our lives 12 years ago now. And I am delighted to tell you that soon after, the cherished connection between me, my wife, and our daughter returned brighter than ever before. Our daughter is now 14 years old, in the top 10% academically in her school, emotionally secure, and socially responsible. My wife is a respected peer support worker and trainer, and I myself managed to gain a degree in Nutrition & Health last year.

The shame I once felt was misplaced and belongs firmly at the feet of society and the discriminating people within it. 

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Comments

This makes me so sad, and it

This makes me so sad, and it scares me too. My husband suffers with episodes of psychosis we are hoping to start a family soon. I had the awful realisation in child protection training at work the other day that our children may well be considered 'at risk'. Its scary enough the prospect of caring for my husband if he is poorly and children as well without the fear of them being taken away. It is reasuring to hear a happy ending though.

psychosis & parenthood

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog. I am delighted that you & your man are planning to start a family soon, I cant recommend parenthood enough. I wish I had the knowledge to offer you some advice but all I can say from my experience is that you and your man should consider talking to family/friends & have a plan ; agreed & put in place just in case things get out of control and you need their support. I hope that others reading this may be able to offer you some advice & wish you all the happiness I have enjoyed being a dad.

Unfortunately mental health

Unfortunately mental health discrimination is alive and well with some people who work in social services. So glad your story has a happy ending.

psychosis & parenthood

This has to change & change NOW ; we as individuals with Mental Health problems have been demonized for 100+ years ! We have a lot to offer society & do some great work already but it is never recognized.

Old Fashioned Views Need To Change

Your story has really moved me, as I have had simmular experiences! I can't imagine the sleepless nights and worry you all must have felt! I am so glad that couples such as yourself continue to prove these judgemental and disgraceful people wrong! Parents are parents regardless of what their daily struggle is! No one is perfect!You should be really proud of yourself, posting such a powerful entry and I hope the right people read it and learn from it and hopefully change their outdated and inappropriate behaviour towards mental health/struggles/illnesses. I wish you and your family happiness and hope you continue to stay as strong as you always have been, always are and always will be! Stigma needs to end!

psychosis & parenthood

Thank you for taking the time to read & comment on my blog. It's reaffirming to know others see the need for change; thanks again for your kind words. Regards Pete

Judgement

I have the other side of the story - my daughter unbeknown to me was suffering from depression and also self harming. She started wandering off at night and was bought home by the police one night. This immediately kicked off contact with Social Services. I was belittled as a mother, had threats that she may be taken away from me and talked to like a child. I am a reasonably intelligent individual and took immediate action to seek advice for her condition (which has now been put into a controlled yet open spectrum with help on hand when needed). This advice was taken up before Social Services intervened. It showed me personally how easy it is for people to presume you are a bad person because of a crisis in your family matters (as we are all aware it's difficult for the sufferer to talk about their problems with close loved one's). Everyone can be effected by mental illness (on both sides as a sufferer and a carer) I feel that judgmental decisions can cause unnecessary stress and heartache on many very caring and worried parents/carers. I hope I never have to go through the process again it showed a side of authority that I wouldn't wish upon any loving parent.

Inspiration

Your love for your wife and daughter is what touches me most. I found this site to understand mental illness more as I wanted to write a series of tv episodes going in depth about mental illness. After reading blogs including your own on here, I feel a huge motivation to change the mental health stigma present in film-making. It is a problem that not enough people are addressing in film-making. I want to write stories where the main hero has a mental illness and overcomes a challenge that people without mental illness have trouble overcoming. Your sharing about you and your wife as helped me realize I need to write a well rounded character, someone who is more than just their illness. Thank you for this insight and I hope to make a positive difference with this.

psychosis & parenthood

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. The work you are undertaking sounds very interesting ; educating people on the realities of Mental illness & how sufferers live & contribute to society is a very important step in reducing stigma. Regards Pete

Thank you

Pete, Your story touched my heart in ways I can not express in words. Thank you for your bravery in sharing. I have a new found hope for my son who struggles with a mental illness. Bless you

Hope

Thank you very much for taking the time to comment on my blog. Living with a mental health issue does not have to define anyone's life. Given the right support & understanding your son can have a fulfilling & rewarding future ahead. Never give up hope as i'm sure it can only strengthen your sons resolve. Wishing you both all the best.

I had an abusive marriage. I

I had an abusive marriage. I had 2 lovely daughters from this marriage, unfortunately their father taught them to call me derogatory terms related to my mental health (nutter, mental, etc) & taught my children to call me a child abuser many times a day. I am now separated from my husband but he has told my children that I’m not fit to be their mother due to me being a nutter, mental child abuser. They were told I would ruin their lives & education. This message was fed to them regularly. My girls left me a year ago. I have seen my youngest for 1hr 45mins in that year. My eldest daughter has seen me just to steal my bank card & money. Social services (children & family) have held meetings but I have become very emotional (part of the symptoms of my complex PTSD) Social Services record & say very derogatory things about my mental health. My mental health social worker has explained that their behaviour is discriminatory, C&F social services refuse to change their records & have told the MH social worker they don’t like her as she says things they don’t like. My ex husband has a caution for voyerism (the police were going to prosecute him but I declined to protect the children). He lost his job as a team leader in NHS nursing (gross misconduct) but was reinstated 15 months later by a friend/colleague. I had a fantastic career (part time) in the NHS. My ex expected me to work but refused to help with the children. This eventually took its toll & I was made redundant. I now work school hours minimum wage which was to fit around my children. I have no family, very few friends & my life feels like it is destroyed. I lived for my children & now they have gone. Mental health discrimination destroys the person with mental health issues & the next generation.

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