Doors Wide Open: A Parent’s Perspective of Mental Illness

Although we are starting to hear more and more about mental health, there is still not enough information available to parents when they need it the most. None of us wants to be the parent that needs these resources for our children, but if we or one of our friends do, we need to have the tools at our fingertips.

Here is one dad sharing his perspective when his daughter developed psychosis.

Beth was always a very lively person with a natural curiosity and strong will. Through the high school years she traded her social circle of brightly-spirited and mostly achievement-oriented friends for the low-spirited, drug and alcohol-abusing crowd. Her marks went from the 90’s to the 60’s, to incomplete classes, and in the end, high school was left unfinished. As parents we didn’t lose sight of the Beth that we used to have and hoped this teenage rebellion, laziness and emotional upheaval would pass (and soon, please!).

The first incident that marked a limit even we could not rationalize was a deep interest in God and spiritual connectedness. Another: Beth would talk to the police about someone “putting drugs in my drugs”. The police officer advised that we take her for blood tests at the hospital. As we drove, our daughter began to fill us in our other parts of her paranoid life (parking her car on different streets before walking to work; seeing familiar faces in unfamiliar places; being ruled by thoughts that she didn’t accept as her own; etc.) It didn’t take long for the skilled hospital staff to determine that care was needed, and with the assistance of a mild medication, Beth began to talk about things that were certainly not part of the world any of us related to.

The Phoenix Program had just started and we decided to refer Beth. It is a community service that specializes in early identification and treatment of psychosis. One of the challenges that we faced as parents was that we were in a very unfamiliar world and trying to navigate for ourselves, as well as for Beth, proved to be difficult. Beth has chosen to include us in many of her interactions with the Phoenix Team. Consequently we have been present in care meetings with all members of the multidisciplinary team. We were fortunate to have the Family Specialist and Schizophrenia Society’s Community Worker on hand to supply us with education, understanding, decision making and occasionally a shoulder to cry on.

The most helpful contribution for us as parents to cope was a direct contact inside the team who could balance Beth’s needs with ours. The most helpful contribution to Beth’s recovery was assistance with decision-making. Making good decisions requires insight and we saw Beth steadily exercise that mental pathway.  By now I wonder if the whole world could use some of this – Beth makes decisions on a better platform than we do at times. She also does “reality checks” with the team – asking if her perception of the world is making sense or it if is influenced by her disease.

The best advice I can give is to make use of it (the care team). Talk openly, listen carefully and care for yourself.

Psychosis is one mental health issue that often gets portrayed incorrectly in movies and everyday conversations. This video describes the psychotic experience from a young man’s perspective.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is September 30 to October 6, 2012.  The week seeks to:

  • raise awareness of the level of mental illness in Canada
  • reduce negative stigma about mental illness
  • promote the positive effects of best practice in prevention, diagnosis and medical treatment.

For more tips and hints about mental health, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:

  • Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at
  • Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About these guest bloggers:

Milinda Alexander is the Coordinator of the Phoenix Program, Early Intervention Service and an Occupational Therapist.  She works and travels between the 3 clinical sites (Milton, Oakville and Burlington) and links with other early intervention programs throughout Ontario.

Tony DiGiacomo is a mental health clinician/family specialist with the Phoenix Program at the North Halton Mental Health Clinic, serving Milton, Georgetown and Acton in Halton Region.  Tony provides education and support to the families, caregivers and loved ones of youth and young adults experiencing a first episode of psychosis.

This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Children & Tweens with Special Needs, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Teens, Teens With Special Needs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Doors Wide Open: A Parent’s Perspective of Mental Illness

  1. Hello Parents, Teachers and Caregivers,

    As a Holistic Youth Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor in Georgetown, I have worked with several youth who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses, depression, suicidal etc…
    Throughout my work I have discovered that many of these children are missing the connection to spirit and their true authentic self.
    Many of these children are highly intuitive and aware and are expressing symptoms of this multidimensional awareness in several different ways that if supported spiritually would not manifest itself as “mental illness”.
    With their heightened awareness being misunderstood they are more likely to feel “abnormal, crazy even, unbalanced, experience hallucinations etc..
    Drugs and alcohol then become tools for them to turn off these gifts and awareness, numb them out if you will instead of finding people to support them, encourage them and explain exactly why they feel and operate that way.
    Many of the youth I have worked with over the past years have come on board to create Halton’s First “Youth Spiritual Circle” called “OPEN SPACE”.
    To find out more call 416-700-9012 or email and here the countless stories from youth who entered the darkness of mental illness and were able to find the LIGHT!

    Be Well,
    Michelle LeRoy
    Energy Medicine Practitioner, Spiritual Counselor, Holistic Youth Life Coach
    Cornerstone Health Centre

  2. says:

    I could use the help for my kids 2898283023 please single dad with to kids that possible help the illness

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