To Tell or Not To Tell

Can you imagine having a child who suddenly and unexpectedly experiences a health crisis? Perhaps you can. Now imagine that, in this case, you find yourself navigating the health care maze, doctor’s assessments and treatment team recommendations alone with no support. You stay silent, feeling like you cannot tell a soul what is happening, and at times it feels like you are hanging off the side of a cliff by your fingernails. You are making one decision at a time in the best way you can for the good of your child with no sounding board and little outside guidance. Can you imagine? Why would you do this without support? Are you fearful of sharing your story? Maybe you are worried that if people find out what you are going through you will be ostracized. Maybe you are afraid of being shut out of your social circles or being treated differently at work or where you workout.

Sounds absurd doesn’t it? And yet this is what it was like for me when my then teenage son slid into a deep mental health crisis almost overnight. Having never dealt with such a crisis, I had no idea how the stigma, shame and blame around mental health would personally affect me. I felt confused, alone and afraid.

Believe it or not, the first place that I experienced the stigma of mental illness was from within the medical community. I later realized, as we moved through multiple hospitals and facilities, the treatment teams blaming and shaming was not an anomaly but was many times the first “go to” assessment. Even given this, I truly wanted to share my story. I wanted to find others who were experiencing similar circumstances. I thought it would be helpful to sit down across the table from another parent and share our experiences, compare notes and maybe even give each other a little emotional lift in the midst of such scary crises. I didn’t think it would be so difficult to find other parents who wanted to talk and share. The waiting rooms at the hospitals and treatment centers were filled with parents who seemed to be in the same boat as me.

What happened next, though, was surprising. When I sought out parents and caregivers that I could talk to, I hit roadblocks and dead ends around every turn. It was then that I realized just how deep the blame and shame ran and how the stigma affected caregivers in a much stronger way than I had imagined. The few occasions when I thought I’d found someone to talk with ended without a connection; it was just too risky for them to speak openly about their situations. In one case, there was a caregiver who shared that other than the Doctor and her husband, not even her close friends knew what was going on in their son’s life. She just couldn’t risk the word somehow leaking out. Even her best friends did not know!

I am grateful that during my son’s crisis, my best friends did know and slowly I realized that others needed to know as well. I brought my family and friends into the mix and then my yoga and running communities. Neighbors soon learned about what we were experiencing. In full disclosure, I never formally told my boss or the people at work. Although this is a subject for another day, I will say that work was the place I felt the least safe to share my story at the time. (Since I went public with my blog and advocacy work, it no longer remains a secret.)

My blog, as well as my coaching and advocacy work, was born out of my desire to make sure my story and stories like mine are shared out in the open. Speaking my truth helps me to stay balanced in both physical and mental wellness. My goal is that speaking aloud provides hope and support to those who are not ready to fully disclose their caregiver stories.

Amy White



About the Author | Amy White

Amy White is International Best Selling Author, Intuitive Coach and Mental Health Advocate. Amy writes the blog Far From Paradise, sharing the lessons, challenges, insights and heartache, as well as her own personal healing journey, following her son’s mental health crisis.

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3 comments to "To Tell or Not To Tell"

  • Helen May

    I tried to get help for my son when he was little. I didn’t know exactly how to explain all the little odd behaviors. They psychiatrist told me I was a bad parent or one who tries to get attention by making their kids sick. He developed schizophrenia when he was in high school. He could have had help a lot sooner……..I was too upset to pursue other avenues of help.

    • Helen,
      My heart goes out to you. I hear this story so often working with the Caregivers I support. I, too, ran into so much stigma from the medical professionals treating my son. For a time when my son first went through his crisis, I really questioned myself as a person and a parent. It is truly challenging to find a safe place to share and express all of the emotions that come along with a child in crisis, especially when a mental health situation is at play. I hope that things with your son are stable. Please feel free to contact me if you want to learn more about the Caregivers Community Forum that is launching May 1, 2015.

      You can also find out more information on my website

      Sending you blessings, xo Amy

      • Helen May

        He’s currently in a very strict facility due mainly to his lack of impulse control. After many trial and errors and drug abuse problems, his meds now have him closer to normal. He taught me a lot about his views on his illness. As an Rn it helps me assist others too. But it’s not a strong area for me. And he just got his social security which really eases my mind. I’ve seen too many people wandering the streets without help. I try and promote social awareness. Mental health has a long way to go…Thanks I enjoy having a place to vent and the positive state of mind I find here! :)