The 'Forgotten People' Print E-mail
Written by Anna Malbon   

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. Image

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.
Confident, polite, articulate and intelligent, Tom seems older than his nine years.

That's probably because he has lived with his mother's frequent suicide attempts, obsessions about being surrounded by Nazis and bouts in hospital. He has also watched her inability to protect herself, let alone him.

Tom drew the disturbing picture after he overheard his mother, who has schizophrenia, telling a friend her plan to kill her only son.

Tom said he wanted to talk publicly about being the child of a parent with mental illness in the hope children like him would stop feeling they were the only ones living with the "nightmare".

The convenor of the Glen Iris based National Network of Adults and Adolescents Children who have a Mentally Ill Parents (NNAAMI). Paul Mckillop said children of mentally ill parents were the most neglected people in the mental health system.

"Children who have a mentally ill parent are not taken seriously by government or policy makers," Mr Mckillop said.

"They are the forgotten people in our generation." Mr Mckillop said it was not unusual for some of these children to describe their parent as half mother (or father) and half nightmare.

As part of National Mental Health Week Mr Mckillop hopes to raise awareness of these hidden victims of mental illness.

He said more than three million people in Australia had to cope with a mentally ill parent without help of support.

"Living in such a family is like never having a childhood," he said.

A former mental health worker, Mr Mckillop was working as a private counsellor when he noticed about 85 per cent of the people who came to him with other stress or work pressures had lived with a mentally ill parent.

"We just go back to what was the major stress in their life and people started to say, 'I'm not sure I should tell you this, but my mum was mad. She was really mad.' They were people in their 30's, 40's and 50's telling someone for the first time they had a mentally ill parent," he said.

Tom said he didn't want other children to live through what he had.  However, he said life had been much better since his father left their house in March. "It was very scary when she was here," he said.

Since the start of the school year, Tom's father and a school counsellor have worked together to explain to Tom the nature his mothers illness.

"I know she can't help it and she doesn't want to behave like that" Tom said.

His father said the system treated the patient with the mental illness, while the family was left alone to cope.

The Australian National Association for Mental Health says one in 100 Australians will experience schizophrenia.

Mr Mckillop is trying to attract government spending for support groups for adults and time-out camps for teenagers with mentally ill parents.
 

Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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Featured Articles

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.
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Bulletin Board

Crazy as a Fox

"I always feel unaccepted, never good enough or deserving of love, I have major trust issues"

"I always thought it was just me"

What a relief to read your stories! It's only since I've read them that I see what an impact living with my sick mother has had on every aspect of my life. She has never been diagnosed. "Crazy as a Fox" is a term made for her. She is brilliant and outsmarts every professional that may diagnose and help her. I think she has borderline personality disorder, narcissism, ocd and she is without a doubt a hoarder. I live in the US. Today I received a letter saying that Indian child welfare has received a report about my family. My mother has contacted them 12 times in the last 8 years. I have been investigated 5 times for my parenting choices and each time have been found a loving, competent mother. I filed a restraining order against her 2 years ago because she called the police demanding to see my children while they were in day care. She showed up at my daughter's school every day last week. I allow her limited visitation with my children because she talks badly about me to them and is inappropriate and basically crazy. She told my younger son that she would love him more but I won't let her. Other members of my family have told me for years to cut her her completely out of our lives. This past June I let her stay in my home the entire month because she had no where else to go and yet she's telling my daughter's teachers that I don't allow her to see her grandchildren. I just turned 40 and it should be obvious to me that she will never be a mother to me. In her eyes I'm not her daughter but her enemy. In my heart I want a mom! Someone who has my back no matter what, who will help me and support me and help me raise my kids. I too have issues that I think stem from a lifetime of living with a sick woman. It is almost impossible for me to say no. Although I have a fulfilling life with awesome support n beautiful children I always feel unaccepted, never good enough or deserving of love. I have major trust issues. I think it's time for me to cut her out of our lives before she breaks us. Good luck to you all and thank you for sharing your stories! I always thought it was just me

Rosie
USA