This paper explains the circumstances of a parent living with a mental illness and disclaims the assumption that this dilemma at all times results in abuse or neglect six articles are referenced for this paper, providing related research on the topic. Some authors provide examples of adults who live with a mental illness and the struggles to provide and nurture their family. Others support the notion that mental illness, although a difficult ailment, does not always result in an abusive or dysfunctional home. The author examines numerous claims that living with a mental illness puts a family at risk for neglect. The author maintains that this circumstance does not automatically equal abuse in a home, but rather, present hardships to overcome.
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Parents with Mental Illness: Arguments of an Abusive Home
Many opinions conclude that mentally ill parents are not able to care for their children and often create the outcome of a neglectful home. There is a stigma out there that these children of adults with a mental illness are at risk for growing up in an abusive home. Although this may be true in certain instances, there is much research to counter this argument and provide support that a high percentage of mentally ill parents work very hard to overcome and handle their obstacles, and provide a loving and functional home. To further understand the background of the issue this topic should be looked into with great detail. The purpose of this paper is to do just that, by giving evidence for and against the topic, by looking into ways that some families adjust and how others don’t. This paper looks into claims that go along with the assumption of abuse stemming from a home with mental illness and provides statistics against it, and in support of parents being able to deal with these kinds of difficulties.
Much research has been done in the area of effects of mental illness in the family. One of which was an article by authors Swartz, Swanson, Hiday, Borum, Wagner, and Burns (1998) that suggests that the presence of a mental illness are often times associated with serious violent acts, according to the Violence and Severe Mental Illness article. It explains how adults with psychiatric problems often times self medicate with alcohol or other substances instead of regularly taking their prescribed medication. The medication noncompliance, substance abuse, and overall mental illnesses create a huge problem within a family. Individuals in this position cannot take care of themselves; much less keep a family healthy. With all the stress stated previously, often times a parent may become violent as a way of coping. It was found that “alcohol or other drug abuse problems combined with poor adherence to medication may signal a higher risk of violent behavior among persons with severe mental illness” (Violence and Severe Mental Illness). Within this type of a situation children become withdrawn, scared, and depending on the age may begin acting out themselves. There has been other research, like this, that shows a correlation between violent and neglectful homes and parents with a mental illness. These tend to aim more towards the lack of proper medication and instead, the substitute of alcohol or other drugs by the parent. One such article by Danson , Gold, Barreira, and Fisher (2008) indicates that as unhealthy as the mentally ill parent is, the child is as equally effected, if not more so. Research by Danson et al. (2008) revealed that situations with severe substance abuse by a parent, there is a high recurrence of less frequent parent-child contact. The more a parent turns to substances to self medicate, there is less and less contact with their children. This is where most people draw the conclusion that a parent with a mental illness, results in a neglectful or abusive home. Studies have shown that this results in lifelong problems in kids, such as a feeling of isolation, separation anxiety, boundary issues, anger, and depression. Children need their parents to be present. Even if struggling with a mental illness, a child needs their parent involved in their lives. Although there is much research that views adults with mental illnesses as precursors to neglectful and abusive parents, there is a great deal of studies that argue against it.
Rethink is a severe mental illness foundation, aiming to assist those suffering, family who are affected, as well as a goal of clearing up any misconceptions glued to this illness. Their overall conclusions are “being a parent with mental illness can be both challenging and rewarding. People often stigmatize and assume that children born to people with mental illness will experience social and emotional difficulties, that they may be abused or neglected. But parents with mental illness can be good parents if they receive appropriate support” (Parents with Mental Illness). This is where the argument comes in. The opposing views from earlier in the paper were accurate in the sense that it is difficult to deal with side effects of medications and many parents living with a mental illness self medicate instead. But this is not true in many instances. Numerous studies have shown that many parents dealing with this issue take the proper steps to mend themselves and their families. The main idea of Rethink seemed to state that despite the stigma attached to psychological illnesses, these families are just as capable of having a functional relationship as those who are lucky enough not to face this obstacle. It was found that often times the family of a loved one dealing with a mental illness, is forgotten. Between all the chaos and stress of helping the hurting individual, the family takes a back seat. The family member with a mental illness is not always able to care for family and both parents tend to focus on “fixing” the one in pain. It is shown that many mentally ill parents are afraid to lose their children, and because of this work very hard to mend what was broken and create as peaceful of a life as they can. They are getting the help they need to be able to take care of their children. A high percentage are making their family lives thrive, not giving up and neglecting their children. There is support to show that a great number of mentally ill adults are reaching out to appropriate support. Some of these summarized in the article included the many ways parents try to mend their family and the ways they reach out. Such as, education classes for parenting and support groups, it is important to receive help from outside support to improve the environment surrounding the family, as well as positive friendships and peer relationships. These tactics greatly contribute to helping an individual dealing with the chaos of a mental illness, become balanced again. Talking with others who understand the difficulties and reaching out to those who can help, give a parent peace of mind. And this sets them up for success. In addition to this article, “Coping with Mental Illness” summarizes the many outlets adults with a mental illness have to helping their children and affected family members succeed, once they are balanced themselves. Numerous instances prove that children of mentally ill parents as well as “other family members in these situations do not always receive the care and nurturing they need. They may feel ashamed to talk about their situation with others and consequently may withdraw from relatives or friends who could help them or support them. Often unable to articulate their needs, even to themselves, these individuals frequently feel isolated and alone” (Coping with Mental Illness in the Family). It’s extremely difficult for a child to know exactly what’s going on when their parent is breaking down, where to turn for help, or what to do to help the family. In these instances, families who have made it through and made the situation better, have reached out for help. Research shows that these families have discussions about understanding that a parent is mentally ill and acknowledge how this is going to affect the other members of the family. News ways of taking care of each individual are discussed and boundaries are drawn, so that certain people aren’t being taken advantage of or acting outside of their familial role. Learning a new way to deal with old unhealthy family patterns also gives family members a leg up. The cycle of harmful family habits can be broken and new communications started.
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From these two viewpoints, a conclusion must be drawn that whether or not a family is going to pull through a difficult time as this, it depends on the individuals and the amount of assistance they receive as well as the amount of effort they are willing to put into making their family function. It is clear that mentally ill parents have a tough burden to work through. Living with a mental illness is difficult, and many individuals have a tough time functioning and finding a balance. Because some have a hard time making it, their families suffer. Children may be abused and neglected by a parent who isn’t in their right state of mind, but studies show that this is not the norm. Many parents have helpful resources in and outside the family. Many take on the challenge of finding the correct medication. And many work extremely hard to take care of themselves, so they can in turn take care of their family. Evidence shows, a high percentage of families with a mentally ill parent, get through life just fine.
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