In the last few blogs, I have briefly defined three of the most devastating mental conditions, which cause problems for millions of individuals and their families, all over the world. There are other brain disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), attention deficit (ADD), seasonal depressive (SAD), oppositional defiant (ODD), obsessive compulsive (OCD), post-traumatic stress (PTSD), and many more. I may address them later, but today I take a break from explaining these disorders and focus on some of the devastating effects of mental illness on families.
One of the most difficult issues for parents of mentally ill children is the issue of training and discipline. When juvenile mental illness shows up, parents naturally want to prevent the common symptoms of the illness, but we cannot. Symptoms of a mental illness might include the following: Poor decision-making, risk taking, inappropriate verbalization, disrespect, irritability, and much more.
We must always consider that when a child acts inappropriately, the illness might be in control, not the child. However, because they are children there will always be times when they act inappropriately. So, how does the parent separate normal childhood behavior from behavior that is demonstrating their mental illness? How do you TEACH a child to behave appropriately when, because of impairment, their mind will not cooperate? As parents, we must keep in mind that they have a handicap and we must make provisions for their handicap without excusing their bad behavior. That is a tough job!
Parents of children who have no impairment also have the responsibility to teach their children proper behaviors and to help them to think rationally. However, a child that suffers from a brain disorder is handicapped in these areas just as a child with muscular dystrophy might be physically handicapped. One individual has difficulty making his/her brain work properly; the other has difficulty making his/her muscles work properly. A handicap in the brain is actually a physical impairment, but no one can physically see the brain, so we do not know it exists until demonstrated through inappropriate behavior.
There is no advantage in having one disability over another. Never the less, a visible disability seems to attract positive attention and help from society more so than a disability that is not visible. I always say that children who suffer from a brain disorder, like bipolar disorder, would definitely get more help if they were in a wheel chair, or maybe in a “head chair” for the brain.
Unfortunately, wheel chairs are also stigmatizing. There is no mystery about a child having a handicap when they are in a wheel chair and this can draw negative attention as well. One thing I am grateful for is that, at least a child with a brain disorder has half a chance of appearing “normal” when his/her mind functions well.
I thank God that “head chairs” for brains have not been invented yet!
Dorothy Ruppert, author of “God Placed Her in My Path – Lessons Learned from the Furnace of Bipolar Disorder.”