When Your Child Is Diagnosed With a Mental Illness

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It’s always frightening anytime your child is diagnosed with a health condition.    When that condition will require your child to be on medication for the rest of her life, it’s even more worrisome.

When you find out that your child has a mental illness, you may be shocked, relieved, or you may feel nothing.  Different people react differently to the news.

Once the initial reaction wears off, grief,  guilt, or anger may set in.  You may feel angry that this has happened to your child.  Many parents grieve and worry about what their child’s life may be like.  They wonder what the future will hold.  Some parents feel an enormous amount of guilt and worry if they could have done something differently to prevent the illness.

Today, I found out that one of my children has bi-polar disorder.  I feel relief as I’d been concerned about the behaviors she’d shown lately and finally found the courage to take her to the psychiatrist.  Before, I’d just rationalized the bizarre behaviors as “teen issues” or “a stage”. Deep down, I knew better.

My ex husband and several of his immediate family members struggle with various mental illnesses.  At times, they’ve had to be hospitalized due to their illnesses. I’ve watched the drama unfold over the past several decades and I’ve worried for some time about what my children could have inherited.  In some ways, it is a relief to know I no longer need to worry about “what if”.  

I’ve been told by other parents that one of the best ways to deal with your grief and worry is to educate yourself about your child’s condition.  I talked with my child’s psychiatrist and got some phamplets and other materials for to read.  Many drug companies also have brochures which can explain certain medications and their side effects. 

Tomorrow, I’ll search on the internet for information and support groups which deal with bi-polar disease.  When I did an internet search recently,  I was surprised at the number of resources available online.  I’ve signed up for several support groups, but I’m still trying to see which “one” I will find best fits our specific needs.  I’m also looking for “kid-friendly” resources for my child. 

One of the organizations I’ve discovered is NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness).  They have many articles and other resources for parents which can be helpful.  I enjoy the blog, where different people share about their real life experiences with mental illnesses.

Today I begin another new path on my parenting journey.  I feared what might happen when and if today arrived, and now that it has, it’s not quite as bad as I imagined.  Nothing has changed except I now have a name for what has been happening to my child.  Hopefully because of that name, I can now get my child the help she needs to have the kind of wonderful life I want for her to have.


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