Guest Author - Kelli Deister
In today’s society, mental illness is often talked of as though it is something to be ashamed of, whether it be in regards to the children or their mentally ill parents. There are various stereotypical statements and beliefs held by many in our society. Granted, our society has come a long way with the issue of the mentally ill and their children, but there is still the shadow of shame that outlines their lives. One thing of importance, that I would like to point out, is the fact that mental illness is not the fault of the person who is mentally ill. Nor is it the fault of their children. However, both parent and child can feel as though it is their fault. I will not focus on the parents at this time, but rather the children.
It is my understanding that mental illness has many degrees to it. While it might be severe for one, it might be very different for another. For instance, one parent might suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while another parent might be mentally handicapped. The question at this time is what happens to the children that have mentally ill parents? While I am obviously not fully aware of the many degrees of mental illness, I do believe that the degree of parental care is equivalent to the degree of the mental illness. It is my opinion that the higher degree of untreated mental illness, the higher the chance that it negatively affects the children and abuse occurs..
The child whose parents are mentally handicapped truly have a difficult life. When a person is mentally handicapped, they can be lacking in various skills needed for parenting. Due to the lack of appropriate parenting skills, the child can become a victim of many forms of abuse. This can also leave the child with the feeling that they are wrong or somehow at fault. This is furthest from the truth; however, as in any family where abuse takes place, the child will feel at fault, as though something they said or did instigated the abuse against them.
I would also like to say that while many years ago the child of a mentally handicapped parent would fall victim to a variety of forms of abuse, there is less chance of abuse occurring in modern times. Obviously, it does still occur though. However, it doesn’t have to destroy a child in current times. For those adults that suffered through the abuse as a child, I want to tell you that it is not your fault. It was never your fault and will never be your fault. You are innocent in all of this. Please know that you are not to blame. You, as an adult survivor of childhood abuse, have a right to be validated in your emotions and feelings.