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Old 12-22-2015, 02:55 AM
Location: Illinois
4,754 posts, read 4,104,401 times
Reputation: 12900


Hello all. Over the last year and a half, through many difficult struggles, I have reason to believe that my teenager may truly be mentally ill. Now, before you laugh and make jokes about teenagers, please understand this is not something I take lightly, this is not me overreacting to normal teen behaviors, this is not a diagnosis I want.

I am not going to go over details of my experiences with her as I know how folks on this board can be, but suffice it to say I believe she has inherited her father's (my ex husband) mental health issues. She has a therapist that I will talk to about getting a referral to a child psychologist/psychiatrist so I can get some unbiased, professional opinions.

What I am asking for is advice, opinions, support from those of you on the board who have parented or are parenting a child/adolescent with mental health issues, things you wish you had known, things would do differently, things that you found worked for your child. Advice navigating the maze of psychiatric healthcare. Anything that would be helpful to someone possibly at the beginning of this journey.

Thank you.
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Old 12-22-2015, 09:43 AM
Location: Wisconsin
16,514 posts, read 16,001,127 times
Reputation: 38965
Find the best psychiatrist that you can find that specializes in teens or adolescents, even if you have to drive some distance.

Make sure that they do "talk therapy" as well as prescribe medication, if that is needed. My family found, and others have found that some doctors focus on just one area (talking cures everything OR medication cures everything) when a combination may work best for your child.

Make the time to set up appointments as often as the doctor needs to see her. If that is once or twice a week at the beginning, do that. If you need to take off of work to go there, take off of work. A few hours now may make the difference between an illness being minimized or even cured vs. having much bigger problems in the future.

Your doctor may recommend various assessments or tests (academic/cognitive/behavioral) with psychologists or others. Do that. The more information that you have the better it will be.

Follow through on what they tell you to do, too. That may mean keeping charts or diaries of behaviors that you observe or it may mean sharing detailed family medical and mental health histories. It may mean calming your home environment, or cutting your hours at work for more family time or other things.

Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2015, 01:13 PM
5,037 posts, read 4,854,154 times
Reputation: 11726
Whether you're right or wrong, I can't imagine anyone laughing or making jokes about a parent struggling with something like this.

I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 12-22-2015, 01:18 PM
Location: San Antonio, TX
10,870 posts, read 18,968,919 times
Reputation: 25142
You're very wise to seek help for your child before she reaches a crisis point. My husband used to work at a children's mental hospital and from what he said, that's not a place you want your kids to end up.

I wish I had more advice for you. After you get a diagnosis for her, maybe you can find a support group for parents of children with that diagnosis, so that you can get really good, specific local advice about which doctors are good and things like that.
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Old 12-22-2015, 01:32 PM
Location: Maryland
912 posts, read 594,668 times
Reputation: 1078
I am sorry your family is going through this. I can't speak as a parent with a child with mental disabilities, but I can speak as a child of a parent with severe mental disabilities (often hospitalized; in tons of therapy when she's not -- right now they say she has Borderline Personality Disorder with Paranoid Schizophrenia, but that has changed many times over the years).

How do they compare? Well, when you're the child, you go to a lot of the appointments with your parent (and hear all the conflicting diagnoses and advice) and you are also screened over and over at different ages for your parent's illness, which can sometimes be a lengthy process. My ex-husband also has a severe mental disorder (NPD with a dash of psychopathic behaviors), but refuses treatment.

My advice is to listen to your gut. There are *so* many opinions on what a diagnosis might be and then *so* many opinions on how to treat it. I was told by multiple reputable doctors that I did not inherit my mother's mental illness. However, one unscrupulous doctor said I did and tried to drug me up with all sorts of extremely strong meds I didn't need (and am living proof decades later that I didn't need them -- my mother's condition prevents her from keeping employment -- she often thinks someone is after her -- whereas until I gave birth to my son, I had been steadily employed for 23yrs since I was 14yo, as just one example of many).

Now, while I don't have my mother's mental disorders, I do suffer from seasonal depression. For several years, I went to therapy for it and tried different mild meds in the winter. However, one doc, after only trying me on one med said "if xyz drug can't fix you, there's nothing I can do for you." Umm, what?! You're going to tell a depressed person (that could be suicidal -- I wasn't, but he didn't talk to me long enough to know that before trying to pop this magic pill in my mouth), that there's nothing you can do for someone with something as minor as seasonal depression? Then, when I told the front office I wanted a new doc, they said they hear that a lot about this doctor, but since I'm the patient I'm deemed "crazy" and have no choice in who I see. WHAT?! OMG, I left and never returned. Not too long after, I moved to sunny SoCal and the seasonal depression was gone. Imagine that? lol (Now I'm back in MD, but that's another story. )

Not all shrinks are shady (I have one in CA that I simply adore and has helped me learn techniques to avoid marrying another person with an abusive mental disorder), but some are. I'm not telling you this to worry you, but just to say be thoughtful about who you pick and if they don't feel right, don't hesitate to leave and find the right fit for your family.

I'm sure others can chime in on how to do that as a parent. Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2015, 01:39 PM
9,210 posts, read 18,097,548 times
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Not a parent, but a professional here, and I just happened to see your thread.

If the mental illness you're talking about is one of the ones considered "severe, persistent" mental illnesses, like schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder, then it's very, very fortunate that you have recognized this early and that you are seeking treatment for her while she is this young.

One of the most interesting and promising areas of mental health today is the area of early detection & treatment. Study after study is providing a lot of evidence that the younger the person is when these illnesses are identified, and the earlier they can get into treatment, including meds combined with therapeutic and psych rehab interventions, the better the life-long outcome will be.

With something like psychotic episodes or manic episodes, research is showing that the more of these episodes a person has over a lifetime, the worse their functioning will be in between episodes and the worse the episodes will get. But if treatment can begin after a first, usually not so severe episode, the progression of the illness can be virtually stopped as long as the young person starts and stays in treatment.

You might want to do some searching on "early detection and treatment of mental illness" or phrases similar. The scholarly articles are very promising, and now there is more and more popular literature based on the scholarly/scientific studies.

I see you are in Illinois.
It looks like there is an early psychosis program at the U of Illinois Medical Center

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Old 12-22-2015, 09:31 PM
571 posts, read 1,046,366 times
Reputation: 1234
Not a parent of a child with a mental illness, but I work with such families. Look in your state for your local Parent Training and Information Center, who can help you put an IEP in place for your child, to address the ways her illness manifests at school. Look for your state Family to Family Health Information Center, and your local Federation of Families. These may even be all housed within the same non-profit. These agencies can help provide information and support to you and your daughter.

The Parent Training Center will help you address any school related concerns. The F2FHIC will help you with medical care and insurance issues. The FoF is a parent to parent support group, where you will be partnered with a parent who is a bit further down the road with their child than you are, and can provide a listening ear as well as guide you to local resources and support.

Seek out qualified mental health care for her, AND support for yourself. Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2015, 09:39 PM
6,127 posts, read 3,074,988 times
Reputation: 9596
Good advice from people.

My daughter went through a 3 year period of deep depression. She attempted 3 times, was into cutting, and was in and out of hospitals and halfway houses.

Other than seeking professional help, my only advice from experience is for you to be extremely proactive. Don't trust anyone in the profession, yet don't doubt them either. The mental health treatment profession is barely a century old. There are no true experts in the field. You need to balance your research, your interactions with the therapists (psychiatrists, psychologists), and your knowledge of your own child. You, better than anyone else in the field, know your child. You are not a professional in the field, yet no professional in the field really knows your child. Trust the profession, yet trust no one other than your instinct.

Sounds convoluted, but hopefully I've made some sense.
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Old 12-22-2015, 10:37 PM
13,022 posts, read 12,495,990 times
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I'm not a parent or a mental health professional, but you are absolutely right to be pursuing treatment and diagnosis now. It is very urgent as you have no control once your child turns 18. Your vigilance and responsiveness can only help your child.

Consistency is important. You need to remain stable and reliable for her. You must also set boundaries and model the behavior you expect from her. When parents don't set boundaries and expectations for their children dealing with mental illness, it is disastrous. I'd work with whatever psychiatrist she ends up seeing to put some protocols together for responding to outbursts or meltdowns. Your reactions in those moments will be important, and I think having a script ready is important so that you don't end up taking something personally that isn't really about you at all.

But you're aware and concerned, and you seem to understand how mental illness works. I think your daughter is lucky to have you. So many kids have parents who are in denial or view their mental health problems as an inconvenience. Seriously, all of my above comments are based on disaster situations I've seen with parents who refused to deal with their children's mental health problems.
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Old 12-22-2015, 10:46 PM
10,090 posts, read 6,521,049 times
Reputation: 23714
I have a lot of experience. But I do t want to share it all on the forum. If you want to chat, message me
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