Help for parents with kids with mental illnesses

December 18, 2012 1:55:36 PM PST
It's impossible for any of us to understand why that gunman would commit that crime.

But it's even more horrifying for parents who are raising a child with a mental illness, a child who is dangerous at times.

They are left wondering.

Jennie Megibow's son Michael has been schizophrenic and violent since the age of 17. She's among the countless parents who are at times afraid of their own children.

"He's pushed and shoved me he's attempted to strangle me he's pulled a knife," she said.

She had to get an order of protection after calling police twice to take her own son.

But there's often no good place for mentally ill children to go. Jennie's son will soon be in transitional housing, but it can take months to qualify.

And to be hospitalized the person has to be a threat to themselves or to others and even if you can prove that, hospitals don't always have space.

The Wohlenberg family has spent hours trying to find a hospital bed for their daughter Brenna, but after finally finding one, Brenna was discharged three weeks later because insurance stopped paying.

But there is help available. Jennie came to NAMI, The National Alliance on Mental Illness. They link you to resources and offer free classes and support groups.

"It's so powerful to be in the room with people who get it-- other people who have been in their shoes," said Mary Lee Gupta, Program Director at NAMI.

It's helped Jennie. "I've learned how to calm him down and talk to him in a way he understands it," she said.

On average parents wait two years after onset of psychiatric symptoms before reaching out for help, because there's a stigma, because they don't know where to reach out.

A good first point of contact for people is to contact the NAMI helpline at: 212.684.3264


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