Author Archives: Priscilla Chou

About Priscilla Chou

Priscilla is a second year student at the University of Guelph-Humber. Fascinated with the world behind mental illnesses, she’s an aspiring psychology student who hopes to specialize in clinical psychology.

Tips on how to Cope with a Parent with a Mental Illness – From a Child’s Perspective

Mental-Health-Month-resized (1)As a child, it can be hard to see your parent going through the symptoms related to their mental illness. Below are 3 tips on how to cope, based on my personal experience.

1. Remember that no family is perfect. Every family experiences their own unique problems and difficulties. It may be hard to deal with your parent at first, but you must realize that every person faces obstacles within their life and this is simply another challenge you must tackle. From a personal perspective, thinking negatively and letting frustration consume your thoughts will do no good. It is important to find the light within the darkness and be supportive of your parent.

2. It’s okay to have your emotional breakdowns, but it’s necessary for you to communicate and express your feelings. You shouldn’t have to feel like having a parent with a mental illness is a heavy burden or a deep dark secret. It’s merely another step in your life that you must bravely overcome. Although you must stay emotionally and mentally strong, talking to people about your parent’s mental illness can relieve a lot of stress and emotions you may be feeling. I’ve always been too embarrassed to tell people about my mother, but after meeting another person who also had a mother with bipolar disorder, I felt like I could relate and share my feelings. For once in my life, I didn’t feel lonely and I was able to relate to someone who had experienced the same thing I did.

3. You should learn to familiarize yourself with your parent’s diagnosis and learn how to respond to them when they are dealing with one of their negative symptoms. There will be good days and bad days, but familiarizing yourself with their mental illness can help you cope and know what to expect. Don’t expect them to solely be by themselves in this treatment process, as you can contribute to their recovery process. Never give up on the idea that your parent will get better because although it may take time, with the right services, such as therapy, they CAN get better.

By: Priscilla Chou

Behind a Child’s Eye

f6a1959d69cb327431d3308f06268725I believe every individual tries to reflect upon the happiest memories of their childhood. We tend to block out the negative experiences that we have encountered, solely focusing on the times of endless smiles and laughter. People claim that an individual’s childhood should be a period marked by innocence and purity and I agree, but I also believe that traumatizing events can leave permanent scars.

When I was a little girl, my mother was my idol for everything. I always looked up to her and she was constantly my chosen role model for those silly projects. My mom was a brave woman, never once did she shed a tear around me. Instead she put up a strong front. It wasn’t until one day when I witnessed her faint from getting up from a nap, distinctly seeing her pale and limp body, did I begin to worry. I found it even more strange when we went to go eat dinner at our favorite restaurant and she barely touched a thing. I distinctly remember asking her what was wrong, but she shrugged it off, giving me that smile and reassuring me that everything was fine. Little did I know that my life was about to change.

The whole concept of mental illness was confusing to me. Eight year olds aren’t supposed to understand the idea behind wanting to kill yourself. They are all led to believe that they will have happy lives and only die from old age. It was absolutely terrifying to see someone you looked up to screaming, shaking, complaining of hallucinations, and wanting to die. And of course, because I was that innocent and pure child, I was beyond frightened. It felt like I was witnessing a monster who had possessed my mother’s soul. All I could do was hide and pray that this demon would go away.

Kids aren’t taught at school how to deal with having parents that suffer from mental illnesses. They are taught to be good citizens, obey laws, and study content like simple mathematical skills. I had no idea how to deal with something like this, I had never seen these types of situations in cartoons, so I didn’t know how to help. Each time my mother had a bad moment, all I could do was cry because the truth was, I was scared. Every single time my mom had a bad episode, I tried to reassure myself I was a big and brave girl, but I couldn’t stop the tears from shedding down my face.

I think it’s safe to say that after my mom’s diagnosis became reality, my life changed. I was forced to accept that life was not a perfect fairy tale and not all childhoods were happy. It eventually became a ritual and I recognized that my mother would have her ups and downs. However, despite her episodes becoming more routine, I would be lying if I said that the little girl in me didn’t feel lonely and scared.

Rather than solely focusing on content, such as physical exercise and learning the periodic table, schools should also be teaching children about the world behind mental illness. People are often uninformed regarding the issues behind mental health disorders. Our first instinct is to call these individuals “crazy”, contributing to the negative stereotypes that are prevalent within society. If schools were to place a greater importance on mental health, children wouldn’t be so afraid and confused when witnessing their parents or family members dealing with, for example, a depressive episode. It would allow children to feel like they’re not alone and allow for an open line of communication.

 By: Priscilla Chou 


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