Monday, February 8, 2016
Day 33- Parents of Children with Dermatillomania/CSP:My Child is Not Okay
This article is for parents of children with OCD, dermatilloamnia, or any other mental disorder. I am focusing on parents, not out of blame nor to create guilt, but because they are on the frontlines of the battle against mental health issues. This is because children are resilient, adaptive and have a high neuroplasticity with which they can overcome and learn how to manage their mental disorders before it becomes solidified, layered and integrated into them as they grow older. I am not a doctor, but someone who sufferers from dermatillomania, and as I am finding solutions for myself, I am looking back and seeing how much of what I created for myself could have been prevented in my childhood. Please also see: Day 50 - OCD: From Hiding and Feeling Unwanted to Living and Expressing Fully.
There was a time, perhaps your parents’ generation, where children were to be seen but not heard, it was as if, so long as the child is alive at the end of the day, the parenting has been successful. These days, children’s mental health has become a prevalent issue in many contexts, with new disorders and prescribed medications seemingly mounting every year. This unfortunate equation results in parents who may have the best intentions, but lack the necessary tools required to deal with today’s children’s mental health phenomena. Part of the problem is that, due to a certain amount of stigma created over the years, there has been a lack of understanding and forward motion with regards to the treatment and prevention of mental illness and disorders. So much of what is suffered in adulthood can be explored and understood, expressed and discussed with the child as active participant in childhood. But first, parents on the front lines have to take a look within themselves to see if there is any stigmatization existent in their own minds, conscious or subconscious, expressed or implicit. In order for a conversation with your child to open up, you have to be clear within yourself that there is no judgment, and that your acceptance of your child is in fact, unconditional.
To this day, 60 percent of people that suffer from a mental illness will not seek help due to fear of being labelled (http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/initiatives-and-projects/opening-minds). It is an absolute certainty that stigmatizing our children’s mental disorders will only ever prevent treatment and healing, and limit our children from realizing their utmost potential in this life. We have to realize that we must become objective about the fact that our children aren’t okay, and that we do not necessarily know what to do about it. We must unlearn the stigmatization that has been passed down for generations because it is a detriment to our children, and we are the only ones keeping it alive today. We do so by accepting and allowing our own fears, judgments and reactions surrounding the issue of mental health, disorders and psychosis, to seep through into our behaviour and attitudes towards our children. Stigmatizing our children’s mental health renders us blind and deaf, leaving our children isolated in the face of something that they are in no way prepared to handle alone.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a stigma is “a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something,” whereas to stigmatize means to “describe or regard as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval.” Now, we don’t have to outwardly say negative things towards a child, nor do we need to disgrace or disapprove in words to keep a stigma alive, or to make a child feel stigmatized (marked out or described as something bad). Simply ignoring the problem, making it seem smaller than it actually is, or not taking it seriously, indicates that there is a belief system, whether or not we are conscious of it. If we are afraid or awkward or uncomfortable around something, or if we ignore it, it indicates that somewhere within us, there is something holding us back.
In a normal scenario, when a child displays a physical symptom of an illness, like a lump, a rash or a fever, even if we do not know what the problem is, we act. We go to the doctor, we do research online, we become concerned and speak with others, treatments are tried and we even ask the child how they feel as an indicator of whether or not the treatment is working. This is normal. The fact that this is what normal looks like makes this a good way to establish a standard against which behavioural reactions can be compared when dealing with psychological symptoms of illness. As a parent, when confronted with possible mental illness within your child, you can ask yourself what you would do if this were a physical illness. If there is any difference between your behaviour because the illness is psychological, then that is a sign that there is some degree of reaction within you. It is up to each one to investigate what that reaction is, because not doing so is a detriment to the child.
In fact, not only will non-action end up harming your own child, but it will harm other parents and children as well, because it is keeping a stigma alive. So long as the stigma exists, parents will feel like the child’s mental illness is their failure. The mental illness will become something shameful, and will limit the child into adulthood. If swept under the rug, mental illness like OCD and dermatillomania, will not be researched and there will be no prevention.
The first step towards prevention is for parents of children with signs of mental illness to treat it normally, as I described above, and for people who have any kind of mental illness to speak out about it, normally. That also includes taking your child by the hand, and walking the journey together. Nobody knows exactly what to do when their child is diagnose or displays signs of a mental disorder, but children shouldn’t be left alone to figure it out. Listen to your child, he or she might even have solutions we wouldn’t have imagined. Open up the conversation regularly so it becomes normalized and a vocabulary can be developed. Assist and support your child to become a self-supportive adult.
This s a dermatillomania blog, but the message goes for all mental disorders and psychological illness. If you would like to see me speak about OCD and dermatillomania, you can watch my youtube videos HERE.Also watch: Dermatillomania/Compulsive Skin Picking: Physical Body Support Picture: http://www.canadianbfrb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/parents_child_silhouette1.jpg