Being the parent of a child considered mentally ill is a cumbersome, stressful, extraordinary task to undertake. It can be expensive, exhausting, and worrisome, requiring additional help, medications, a variety of doctors, specialists, and the pushy advice of others who think they know better. The parent can be pushed to their limits financially, emotionally, and physically. They are isolated, shamed, and scolded as though they’re not doing enough to “control” their children.
If the child exhibits erratic emotional behaviors, they can be ostracized from their peers and overlooked for invites for play dates and birthday parties. Other parents may assume the child is a “bad seed,” having only heard vague stories, unaware of the actual issues, and exclude or forbid their child from engaging in a friendship.
Now parents have to deal with the additional critical scrutiny of the nation eyeing their offspring as uncontrollable killers in the making due to the stigma associated with the mentally ill and media saturation on the topic.
Businesses have even refused services to children with assumed mental illnesses like Autism. As was the case for a mother who tried to get her 10-year-old son’s hair cut at a JC Penny in Kennewick, Washington. Krista Archibald’s 10 year old son Grayson went with his nanny Sarah Buchkoski in response to a free child haircut ad. When Buchkoski began to explain how the child had a habit for covering his ears because he is autistic, the stylist refused service, specifying she couldn’t do a haircut on a child with special needs. With enough public attention, the merchant eventually apologized on behalf of the behavior of the associate and offered to send someone to their home to cut the boy’s hair.
Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication and can overtly manifest physically in coordination, gait, and posture. Some of the physical signs of autism aren’t as obvious but can coexist with other disorders such as Cerebral Palsy. It is not considered a mental illness but is often confused for one. It is a developmental disorder.
Mental illnesses are serious medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Serious mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and borderline personality disorder. They cannot be overcome through sheer will alone but are manageable with proper treatment.
Try having your own child make detached, unemotional statements, as Melissa Brown’s son Max did. Her 10-year-old casually mentioned during a car ride, “You know, Mom, I’m going to kill you someday.” USA Today continued to explain Brown’s predicament with her mentally ill son. Max had brutally attacked his younger sibling and other children on the school bus. Brown knew her son needed lifelong assistance. But with the government cutting mental health programs, trying to finding one best suited for his needs, and the expense, all makes the process especially problematic. Money for mental-health services continues to dwindle and help becomes even harder to find. They live in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Mental Health has undergone spending cuts by the state for $86 million since 2008, according to state figures. What are they expected to do when given little to no options?
Teddy Shuman, from the age of 7, vacillated between sweetness and fury, with little to no provocation for the mood shift. Teddy had been born with fetal alcohol syndrome and sexually and physically abused during his first two years of life. Teddy struggled with physical and emotional disabilities that irregularly drove him to lengthy episodes of hitting, kicking, and biting. This left his adoptive parents, Thom and Bonnie Shuman, drained and frayed.
USA Today explains that, amid the 20 years of raising their son Teddy, the Shumans recalled the difficulties trying to find assistance. When help was found, it was short-lived. By the time, Teddy was an adult, he’d lived in nearly two dozen different facilities, depleting the Shuman’s savings doing so. Once the money ran out, the institutes would send him home. Administrators didn’t seem concerned with keeping him in a consistent environment. Nor did they make efforts to find aid to help the Shumans pay for the care. Thom Shuman estimates they’ve spent more than $100,000 on Teddy’s treatment and care.
In 2006, 20-year-old Teddy Shuman was accused of killing his Fairfield resident facility roommate with a belt. A judge ruled him unable to stand trial due to his mental condition, and the charges were dismissed. Teddy was placed in a structured program at the Columbus Developmental Center. The Shumans continue to research care options for their son and advocate for a change in how the mentally ill are handled in society.
Parents like the Shumans and Melissa Brown insist the process of navigating mental health services needs to be ratified for ease and understanding. Thom Shuman asserts in Cincinnati.com:
“People who haven’t had to work with the system don’t understand. They say, ‘Just find them somewhere to live.’ Well, there aren’t any places and if there are, they’re full – It shouldn’t take horrible things for people to get the help they need.”