People have a range of misconceptions about mental health issues for both children and adults. Many of these come from a time in history when we did not understand mental health issues and held such beliefs that people that struggle with mental health problems were “possessed, demonized or bad.” Historically, people with mental health problems were locked away, separated from the rest of society or were given harsh treatments. Although we have learned a great deal from the past, about identifying, understanding and treating mental health problems, there still remains a great deal of stigma or shame about mental health issues.
In today’s society, popular TV shows, talk shows, and celebrities who talk openly about their own mental health problems, have made these concerns more common. However, for many people of different backgrounds and cultures, mental health issues are still something to hide and feel shame about, especially if it affects their family.
Some misconceptions about mental health issues include the worry that you or your child are “crazy” or will have to deal with these problems forever. The truth is that many mental health issues/concerns can be treated and do not last for long periods of time. There are some mental health issues that people can struggle with across their life, but with early identification, prevention and the right treatment, these difficulties can be lessened or relieved.
Parents are often worried and concerned when any issue involves their child. Parents and caregivers do their best to protect their child from bad influences in their world. Sometimes parents struggle with getting help because of their worries about what this might mean for their child or their family. Parents may worry about what other family members, neighbors or other peers in their community think about their child. Although medical and mental health providers are working towards a time when mental health issues are treated like any other health issue that your child may face, stigma and shame do exist. It is important when getting help, to find treatments and providers who are sensitive to you and your child’s personal family beliefs and values.
One way of dealing with issues of stigma or shame is to get support from other parents and caregivers that are going through the same concerns. The State of Connecticut and across the nation has networks of parent advocacy organizations. Parent advocates can help parents and caregivers navigate the mental health system, understand their child’s mental health concerns, and find the right type of help and gain support through the whole process. A list of family advocates in CT can be found here.