The first support group we attended for parents of children suffering from a mental illness, was held once in two weeks. The group was run by a trained facilitator who had a child with a similar problem to the rest of the group.
We were all in the same position and understood one another. In fact, we became good friends as there was no one else we could talk to about our child’s psychiatric problem; no one who truly understood what we were talking about. We helped one another learn new coping skills and shared strategies. The facilitator made it quite clear that only a psychiatrist, and/or a psychologist could help our sick children and that we were there to learn coping skills to make our everyday lives, as well as those of our children, a bit easier.
As parents are the main caregivers, we are the main source of support to our children and are responsible for keeping in touch with healthcare professionals. Our job is also to help our children maintain a daily routine and make sure they are taking their medication. Many people suffering from a mental health problem start and stop taking their meds, and this is a very difficult issue to handle.
When that support group came to an end, I started a self-help group. There were 22 members who seldom missed a meeting and I actually felt as if we had become one large family because we had so much in common. Wecalled one another whenever there was a problem or crisis; which was pretty often. Every two months, we invited a guest lecturer who spoke on subjects like coping, using laughter to defuse difficult situations and the importance of routines. A psychiatrist came to talk about the various medications that had been prescribed to our children as well as the side effects which were difficult for the patients as the effecrts are rather harsh. After one more lecture by a mental health professional, the group decided that we had all had enough of them so we did without – quite well, in fact.
When my husband passed away, once again I found myself attending a support group for widows. There were ten sessions, and by the time the last one came around, I had made new friends who understood how I was feeling and we continue to give one another the support we need..
Today, all the relevant information is on the internet so it is just a matter of finding it. Years and years ago when my son was ill, there was very little on-line and I hardly had spare time to search for it as mental illness in a family is a full-time job.