Mental Health Services: A Parent’s Perspective
by Peggy Nikkel, Casper
Raising a child with emotional disorders is a challenge many Wyoming parents face on a daily basis. Those same parents often feel isolated, alone and hopeless regarding their child’s needs. Many parents refuse to discuss their child’s needs due to the stigma of having an emotional disorder or mental illness, denial of the child’s needs, shame and self-blame for the child’s disorder, or frustration brought on by failed attempts to access good services.
After parenting a child with a variety of emotional needs, I have experienced all these feelings. Through the years we have struggled to find adequately trained childcare providers, local schools willing to provide modifications sufficient to enable success for our son, teachers, doctors and counselors willing to believe the severity of our son’s problem, and service providers who were trained to work with children.
I have known the heartache of repeated inpatient psychiatric hospital stays for our son beginning at age three, the devastation of signing the first school papers qualifying our son for special education, the grief of placing our son in residential care for 18 months at age nine, the persistent feelings of self-blame fostered by service providers, recurrent fears of doubt that I could parent my son, the secret hope that we would find the magic cure, and the intense shame when our son would act out in public settings.
I also know, first hand, the importance of finding good mental health services for your child, starting early with good evaluations, modifications, interventions, and medications if necessary, strong family and community supports, and consistency in parenting. As an adult, our son is on the road to success in management of emotional and learning disorders and is enjoying a life of independence.
Wyoming is building a good system of mental health care for our children and adolescents. Call UPLIFT and talk to another family member about how you and your family can get connected. It will be worth it for your child!