Tips on helping parents of children with psychological issues

Does your child have cancer? As a parent, it’s a huge shock for you. It’s like a hurricane hitting you without any advance notice. But don’t worry! Medical treatment has advanced and friends are there to support you in every possible way. Everyone will give you tons of information about radiologists, oncologists, surgeons, and the latest treatments. Friends will send fruits, cards, casseroles, etc. to you. They will be there for you.

Has your child been diagnosed with arthritis? Don’t panic. I know it’s tough to see your child suffering due to chronic pain in his/her body. But friends will support you even in this case also.

Does your child have any mental disorder? Phew!!! You’re in big trouble.

No. I ain’t saying that there aren’t cutting edge technologies or medical treatments for mental disorders. But how many people know about them? Most importantly, how many people would come forward and give you the contact details of the psychiatrists? Plus, the social stigma is also there, and that is the main reason why many parents don’t consult a therapist even though they know that their child has a mental issue. A question that pops into the mind is – “What if everyone calls my son mad?”

The roller coaster nature of mental illness and uncertainty about the future are the most painful challenges for the parents. If your friend’s child has been diagnosed with depression or any other mental disorder, then please use the following tips to make him/her feel better.

1. Be there to listen
When you receive a call from your friend whose son is suffering from a panic disorder and has left college due to this reason, put the phone down immediately. Leave your house and meet your friend at his home.

Knock at the door and give a warm hug to your friend. Before leaving your house, prepare a casserole for your friend and the child. Food is the last thing on mind when there is no mental peace in the family. So when you bring a homemade casserole, a distressed parent gives a sigh of relief because he doesn’t have to cook the dinner or lunch.

Buy some fruits or flowers and give them to your friend. Flowers have an amazing quality. They help to uplift mood and create a soothing environment in the house. After you have given all the flowers and fruits, say, “I’m here to listen.”

If you can’t meet your friend due to some reasons or work, then listen to what he is saying over the phone. Be a good listener so that your friend can vent out his frustrations and feelings.

2. Empathise instead of sympathising

The worst thing you can do is sympathise with a parent who has a child suffering from ADHD or depression or any other mental health issue. A parent doesn’t need your pity or sympathy. What he needs is your empathy. Try to place yourself in his position and then only you can understand what he is going through. Once you feel his pain, you can help him in every possible way.

3. Look for a good psychiatrist

This is the toughest part. Rather, this the toughest challenge you’ll face.

(i) Your first challenge: Convincing the parent to consult a psychiatrist. Most parents don’t agree to consult a psychiatrist initially. They fail to accept the fact that their children need the help of a psychiatrist even though the signs are all there.

(ii) Your second challenge: Convincing the child to visit a mental health clinic. A patient doesn’t realise that he has a mental disorder. So it is tough to take him to a psychiatrist.

(iii) Your third challenge: The final challenge is to convince the child to take medicines regularly. Some children refuse to take medicines. Some parents are also scared of giving medicines because they fear that their children will sleep for long hours. But that is a myth.

4. Be supportive
A mental patient often doesn’t know what to say and what not to say. If the child of your friend is in the manic phase, then he might say something offensive to you. He might insult you or hurt you. Be patient and don’t feel insulted. Your friend may feel bad and apologise to you. Tell him that it’s perfectly okay. Don’t stop visiting his house because of the child’s behaviour because that would make him feel even more guilty. Behave normally with them. Invite them to your house occasionally.

It’s tough living with a mental patient. It’s even more painful when that mental patient is your own child. I hope that you’re never in such a situation. But if your friend has a kid who has a mental disorder, then don’t leave his hands due to this single reason. Be there with him.

Ralph Macey is associated with the, a mental health clinic in San Francisco where his job is to look after those people who are suffering from chronic mental disorders. His motto is to focus on the integrated interventions to improve mental health conditions and the other alternative approaches to healing.