When mental illness tests a family, support makes a big difference. Print E-mail
Written by Dan Halloran   

As Mum’s ambassador, I urge you to understand
A speech at the Victorian Parliament.  Published in The Age October 30th 2000. Youth Week.

My Mum has a mental illness called schizophrenia, as well as breast cancer. I am not sure which one is worse.  But I suppose they affect the person so badly it doesn’t matter.

There have been some very hard times, but at the moment her medications are at the right level. The breast cancer is terminal. We may have only a small time left with her, she won’t see me finish school. 

Mum having schizophrenia has robbed me of a lot of time most kids would have with their mum. She was always in and out of hospital and it was very hard. Dad and I can tell when things aren't quite right. One day she was lying on the kitchen floor. When I walked in and asked what she was doing, she said she was dead and got angry.

When my mum and I used to go shopping I worried about how we would get home safely if something happened. Something that hurts me is when people use the word "schizo". But I know they don't understand. Also when people tease the quiet kids. You don't know what's happening with them at home. I had a friend at school whose mum had schizophrenia. Sometimes he didn't have any lunch. I shared mine with him. But I really try to focus on the good times and not the bad. My dad says keep it simple and to enjoy what you have because there are people who are worse off.

I think we need to get doctors and famous people into all schools and have them start talking about schizophrenia and mental health early in their lives. At my school, xxxxxx College in xxxxxx I have been working on a project with some friends. Duncan and Sam and Peter and I have called the project "something is not quite right". We visited the Mental Health Research Institute and collected information during a tour. Our project talks about the facts, but it also talks about the scary things, the hard times, the questions people have.

We have tried to make a poster that will help people understand mental illness a little better, to understand that the children and families still love the person with the illness, and the person still loves them. We also want people to know that everyone involved needs help and support when something is not quite right.

The other thing I focus on is the time I have with my mum. I try to make her laugh and make things as normal as possible. She wrote me a poem. I'd like to share it with you:

Ambassador of Youth

My son Ambassador of truth.
My son
How proud can a mother be
to see
13 years of growth
shining in his eyes?
For beyond his years
his age belies.
He is my son. My only one,
my pride and joy
from the moment he was born
into this world.
Happiness I wish for him.
Health as well.
For life is but a mere breath
in his young years.
So vast his choices to make in the vast landscape.
Imagination is the key to fulfil your dreams that spill.
Take this chance my dear,
always keep an open ear,
learn as you endeavour
to fill your role of ambassador.

Dan 13, Was a youth ambassador during Youth Week. This is an edited text of a speech he gave in that capacity at Queen's Hall in the Victorian Parliament House.

NNAAMI recognises that many young people from this background may find it extremely difficult if education regarding mental illness is talked about in schools.

It will also be more difficult if this is done without proper consultation with the young people who cope with their parents mental illness.

Dan's efforts are to be admired as he chose to broach this subject with his school mates, and also with the support of NNAAMI. Not an easy thing for any young person, who has experienced life coping with mental illness in a parent.

Although NNAAMI supports all sorts of education, the introduction of government education programs regarding mental illness in schools, without adequate support for the real hidden victims (young people who have a mentally ill parent) would be irresponsible. Without adequate supports in place, it has the potential to further isolate these young people.

It is important to firstly empower young people and others who have a mentally ill parent, and assist them to develop, manage  and organise their own support services. They can then be involved in developing their own community education and health promotion programs if they desire.

Paul Mckillop

Dan is a man full of courage. His mother Virginia, a woman who has experienced much of life. NNAAMI mourns the sad passing and loss of Dans mother Virginia. We are grateful for the poem she has left for her son Dan.  This as a testament of her love for her son. It is a gift this poem, a gift she has left for us all.
Paul Mckillop



Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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The 'Forgotten People'

by Anna Malbon from the Progress Press October 22, 1996

WHEN nine-year-old "Tom" was asked to draw a picture of himself with his mother be drew her trying to strangle him.

Tom entered the world of adults too early. If he was ever immune to the complications and pain of life that adults try to shelter from children, he says he can't remember.

Bulletin Board

I had to struggle extra hard

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I.

They only listened to her stories ”

“ I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know.”

Hi, I had a mentally ill mother. She passed away last year. I literally grew up hanging around mental hospitals because my Mom's condition was a cycle that always ends in a mental hospital. When I was younger, there was a long period when I cried my eyes out every time I was separated from my mentally ill mother because she had to stay in a mental hospital. After I grew older, my Mom's mental illness became impossible for me to bear.

Literally, my Mom's mental illness ruined my life. I think. I had to struggle extra hard for everything because of my big handicap at home. There was no support at all from anyone other than my father. Nobody else wanted to know about it. My mother's own cousin even said to my father not to bring my Mom to their place. I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know. My mother's own sister has been complaining since 2000 and her last complain was on 5 July 2014. This particular aunt keeps complaining about the same thing. That she had to take my Mom for her weekly injections and complained that my father and I was not around to do it. Then, she goes on to say that she saw my Mom beat me up with a cane. When she said that, I asked my Aunt, you saw my Mom beat me up with a cane? She said yes and than, she walked away.

I feel very sore with this aunt. Number one, the period she was complaining about was when I was still schooling and my father's and my mental health had deteriorated so badly that we had to leave the state for our own sanity. Before joining my father, I had to live alone with my Mom and my baby sister for almost a year. My aunt who lived a few minutes drive away did nothing when my Mom beat me up every day for months until my father managed to cut the red tape to remove me. My body was full of bruises and I was terrified to go home after school. Nobody helped. Not the neighbours who can hear all my mom's shouting at me, nor my aunt, nor my grandparents, nor my school's teachers. Someone should had intervened for a 12+ little girl. No adult helped. My father was trying his best to get me away to stay with him. Nobody helped him.

On XXXXXXXXXXXX, my Mom's sister let slip she saw my Mom beat me with a cane. And yet she did nothing! My aunt even had the cheek to say that my Mom beat me up because I said I wanted to go live with my father. The way my aunt said it was like the beatings were wholly my fault. What is wrong with the picture? You have a 12+ girl being beaten up daily, you are an aunt who knows something is going on and did nothing. Yet for years later you complain about having to take your own blood sister for her injections. And, I do not think she did it for longer than my own experiences. Probably only a few times because my father and I had to travel frequently to see to my mother. Due to the cyclic nature of her illness.

I have been going with my father when he took my mother for her weekly injections as a little girl, knee high, ever since I can remember. My own aunt is so calculative. There was a nurse that visits my Mom to give her her injections. But, the problem is my Mom will not let the nurse into her house that is why the intervention is needed. I have lost count on the number of times I had to go with my Mom for her injections as a little girl.

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I. They only listened to her stories and full stop. I think my Mom's doctors are the most heartless people I have ever met in my life. Until today, I do not like anyone who officially practices psychology because those doctors etc... contributed to my life being ruined. That is how I feel. I have been scolded by my Mom's medical team and they even dumped my Mom on me after I just turn 18 and there was no other adult around. And, they knew the situation. I was terrified because my Mom was a very violent. My Mom has pitched me, beaten me up, she has biten me with her teeth, she has smashed my head against the table and threatened to beat me with a piece of hard wood. I experienced all these as a little girl at the tender age of 12+ I had to learn karate to protect myself from her violent ways. And, when my Mom was home, I would lock my room's door and place a chair against it. I was that terrified of her.

All our belongings can go missing because my Mom is good at that sort of thing. You never know what is what with my Mom. It is like having a criminal live under the same roof as you.

My aunt kept repeating to me that on my mother's death anniversary I will have go visit her cemetery. I live in a different state from where my mother's cemetery is located. And, my aunt knows that very well. However she repeated her question to me until I said yes. I hate being forced to do something against my will because I have been forced to do things against my will my whole life.

My life is in ruins because of my mother's mental illness and people like my aunt is perpetuating the troubles for me after my mother's death. When I was 12+, my mother's mother said to me that it is my father's job to take care of my mother. In other words, my father's job and mine. And, they never lifted a finger to help. Just helping a little, my aunt has been complaining about the same thing for more than a decade. Unbelievable. Shameful.

Even though my father and I lived in a different state from my mother, we had to travel up and down every weekend because that is demanded of my mother. Sometimes, we had to travel after school and upon our arrival, she won't let us in and we had to travel all the way back. And, my father will not let me sleep at home as it is a school day, I had to go to school. My education was very important to my father. My mother could not be bothered if I succeeded or not.

I have seen more than any of my Mom's relatives have seen with regards her mental illness but people whom I just met behave like I have no idea about my Mom like they are the authority on her behaviour and her illness. Goodness gracious.

Despite this huge handicap in my life I persevered with my studies. My Mom did not give me any moral or emotional support at all. In fact her mental illness cycle will peak just or during my important exams. In other words, I had to deal with my exams and on top of them a mentally ill mother. By my final year in university, I could not take the pressure of exams and a mentally ill mother's break downs anymore.

When I was in my teenage years and early adult years, I was suicidal. I had to call Befrienders a lot. Thank God for Befrienders.

Before XXXXXXXXXXdate, I do not wish my experience to be experienced by anyone else because it is torture. However, after feeling how hard hearted my aunt is. A so called holy person, a church goer, rich person who has successful kids and grand kids. And, she can talk like it is my fault that my Mom beat me up and she (my aunt) had to take her (her own sister) for her injections when I was a kid. I really wish that my aunt must reincarnate as my father (a few lifes) so that she can eat her own words. If my aunt reincarnates and is put in my father's shoes, she would really deserve it. Hope she learns compassion through it all.

Why can't the world give children of the mentally ill a break? I am so fed up with all this troubles that stem from my mother's sister's attitude towards my father and I. After all shel lives a great lives. Rich live. What is wrong with these people? I really cannot stand them. This is my story.

After I wrote the above - I am more myself now, and I totally forgive my aunt and everybody who did nothing to help my father and I. And, everybody else who were heartless towards my father and I. However, I still think that by living a few life times as my father (my aunt) - would do her some good. But, knowing her character, she might become a psychopath and pose a threat to humanity. My father is a very, very kind soul. My aunt is a hard hearted, prejudiced, narrow minded, one tracked mind person.

How I cope? Trying my best to keep out of their way, and hang out with positive people. There are plenty of great people out there. Nnaami is included :)


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