Stigma of Mental Illness Affects Parents, Too

September 28, 2010 Angela McClanahan

My name is Angela, and my kid has bipolar disorder and ADHD.

Now that I’ve completed the first step, I’d like my coffee and donut, thank you.

It’s taken me a long time to get here.hidingWhen you have a baby, you want a nationally televised parade to take place in his honor. You want the whole world to see this beautiful little critter you’ve made, and for all to be aware that YOU are his Mommy.

That is, until you become That Parent. You know, the one with That Kid.

Mental Health Stigma: Being That Parent with That Kid

That Kid might start out with all-day crying at daycare because she’s terrified her mother will never return. She might be the one who fidgets all day and can’t sit still. Maybe he’s the kid in class who has pulled out almost every hair on his own head. Or possibly he’s the one who has bitten, scratched, kicked and otherwise violently assaulted every child (and some of the teachers) in the building.

Other parents don’t care for That Kid. They wish That Parent would do something about their horrible offspring. That Parent must be on drugs. Or just really lazy. Or a complete pushover. That Parent is single? Oh, well—that explains a lot.

Parents of Mentally Ill Children Face Shame and Stigma

Yeah, I’m That Parent. I’m sure a lot of you are, too. We’ve probably seen each other here and there; maybe we’ve even met. But you’d never know, because we’re in hiding, all of us.

When Bob was in preschool, I avoided other parents like the plague. I knew Bob was responsible for numerous assaults on his classmates and I was afraid they knew, too. (Teachers may not name names, but you can be sure kids do.) My first instinct upon being introduced as Bob’s Mom was to apologize for any transgressions against their child perpetrated by my little delinquent in the making. I wanted to explain it wasn’t really his fault, but it wasn’t mine, either—but I knew they wouldn’t understand. So I hung my head in shame, kept my voice low, and ducked out at the first opportunity.

hiding2When he went to kindergarten, I was relieved to have a fresh start—none of Bob’s preschool brethren were in his class. Unfortunately, Bob made a name for himself rather quickly, and I found myself again ducking in and out of the building and hiding from other parents at events.

Hiding Contributes to Stigma of Mental Illness

Frankly, I'm getting tired of apologizing for my kid. I think it’s time we came out of hiding. We want our children to be legitimized and for the public to stop blaming us? Then we have to stop acting guilty.

We have to stop believing deep down that we are guilty. We are not. But until we believe it ourselves, we can’t expect anyone else to.

So let’s all say it together, shall we? I do not owe the world an apology for my child.

Coffee and donuts to follow.

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, September 28). Stigma of Mental Illness Affects Parents, Too, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

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