woensdag 23 januari 2013

Mothering With a Mental Illness

Inspiratie beperkt zich niet alleen tot Nederland, we brengen ook nieuws, voorbeelden en ideeen uit de rest van de wereld over samen zorgen, manieren van wonen en zorgen en innovaties. 

Tips for Success

Can mothers with a mental illness parent well? Can they raise their children as effectively as anyone else, despite their mental health issues? The answer, says Dr. Sharman Robertson, is a resounding ‘yes.’ Especially when they know there is help and there are things they can do in order to cope.

A psychiatrist in The Royal’s schizophrenia unit, Dr. Robertson was one of an impressive slate of speakers at The Royal’s second annual Women in Mind Conference, held November 2. Her presentation “Mothering with Mental Illness” provided useful insight and advice to attendees on how women with major depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can be good mothers.

Dr. Robertson reminded attendees that mental illness can’t be defined in broad brush strokes. “Whether a woman can have children or be a good mother goes beyond her mental health issue,” she says. “It also depends on a host of other factors, including the level of supports she has within her family and in the community, her own desire to parent well and the networks she has created. What is most important is that mothers are more likely to care for themselves if they realize that it will help their children as well.”

So what does it take to parent effectively when a woman is afflicted with a mental illness? According to Dr. Robertson, these are just some of the keys to successful parenting:

• her symptoms need to be managed and under control
• there is a team approach with mental health providers in place
• she has a strong support system
• she has prepared an emergency plan in the event that she is admitted to the hospital that ensures the safety and care of her child or children (it takes away the fear and anxiety a child may have)
• she has opened up the lines of communication with her child about her illness and explained why it is important for her child to go to an aunt or uncle’s, for example, when she is having a bad day

“While a woman can feel a lot of shame about her mental illness,” says Dr. Robertson, “to be a good mother, she has to be strong enough to not feel threatened when she sees her child thrive outside of the home. In fact, she needs to encourage that kind of behaviour. It is important that she is actively involved in her own care. Even taking parenting courses or establishing a shared parenting regime with others will show that the mother is willing and prepared to take charge.”

“If you’re a woman with a mental illness and you want to be a mother,” says Dr. Robertson, “you have to be an advocate for your own mental health needs and for the right to parent. You have to be open and willing to receive help when you need it. All of this will demonstrate to others that you are aware of what is needed to be a good parent —that you can take care of your own needs as well as the needs of your family.”

And most important, according to Dr. Roberson, you need to demonstrate to yourself that you can do it.

Building resiliency in your child

The best thing a mother with a mental illness can do for her child is to help her child become more resilient; to understand what is happening and not be frightened by it; to arm her child with what he or she needs to ‘bounce back’. To build resiliency, a mother should:

• encourage her child to develop positive relationships outside of the home (these can range from relatives, to teachers, to neighbours, to healthy peers)
• help her child develop positive experiences in external environments
• make it possible for her child to take part in age-appropriate activities that build confidence and foster independence
“It’s important for a mother not to feel threatened when she sees her child thrive outside of the home. It means she is doing a good job as a parent,” says Dr. Robertson.


Mothers with Mental Illness

• Mental illness affects 1/4 of women
• 68% of women with mental illness are parents
• 12.1% of children < 12 years old live with parents with mood, anxiety or substance abuse disorders
• 30% of mothers say mental illness makes it more difficult to parent
• Schizophrenia:
     • 62% of women are mothers
     • 35% have psychosis prior to pregnancy
     • Mothers more likely to be married and have better social adjustment and pre-morbid function

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