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You Are Not Alone

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Survival Guide by Ann Douglas

Part 2

Managing Your Emotions

Part 3

Making Things Better for Your Family

Part 4

Advocating for Your Child

You Are Not Alone

It isn’t easy to be the parent of a child who is struggling with a mental health challenge. It can be exhausting and overwhelming—and there may be times when you feel incredibly alone.  It’s important to know that you’re anything but alone.

You are not alone and neither is your child.

You and your child don’t have to handle this on your own.

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You can reach out to other people for support.

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It’s important to know what types of support are available.

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As many as one in five Canadian children and youth will experience some sort of mental health problem during their growing up years.

That’s a lot of kids.

When children struggle, parents struggle as well. Their anxiety levels skyrocket and their lives are affected in far-reaching ways. They may even end up missing time from work.

  • Half of parents in Ontario have experienced concern about their child’s level of anxiety.
  • One in three have had a child miss school due to anxiety.
  • One in four have taken time off work to care for a child who is struggling with anxiety.

 

That’s a lot of parents.

You Don’t Have to Handle This on Your Own

Reaching out to other people for support is a powerful strategy for weathering the many storms that can be triggered by a child’s mental health crisis.

Turning to other people isn’t a sign of weakness: it’s a sign of strength. You increase your capacity to care for your child by allowing other people to care for you. This kind of support can be particularly valuable during those times when you’re feeling particularly scared or uncertain—when life is particularly hard.

What we’re talking about is finding community—tapping into support from other people. After all, there are few things more powerful or affirming than having a heart-to-heart conversation with someone who truly understands what you’re going through because they themselves have walked this very same walk.

Sometimes this type of support happens naturally. You’re talking to another parent when you suddenly discover that you have something really important in common: you’re each the parent of a child who is struggling—and the conversation takes on a life of its own.

At other times, the support happens in a more structured setting: like when you join an “official” parent support group.

But wherever or however happens, peer support is magical. Suddenly, you feel seen, heard, understood, and supported. And that can be a game changer for you and your family.

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Allowing other people to take good care of you will make it easier for you to take good care of your child.

Why It’s Important to Reach Out for Support

Tapping into support from other parents isn’t just a powerful strategy for taking good care of yourself (although, of course, that’s really important, too): it can also help to shorten your learning curve when it comes to figuring out how the children’s mental health system works.

The child and youth mental health system is fragmented and underfunded, so figuring out how to tap into the supports your child needs can be time-consuming and even frustrating. It’s can be really helpful and reassuring to have someone who has knowledge of the system help you find your way.

So remind yourself that you don’t have to find all the answers on your own. You can tap into the wisdom and experience of other parents who have walked this walk.

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Eager to connect with other parents? Ask your child’s doctor or teacher if they can recommend any parent support groups in your community. Or visit the websites of these provincial parent support organizations to see if they have a face-to-face group or parent support phone line up and running in your part of the province.

The Types of Support Available: Formal and Informal Options

Whether you decide to seek support online or to find it in your local community is largely a matter of personal preference.

Some parents like the convenience and relative anonymity associated with seeking support online: others prefer to access that kind of support in their own communities.

And sometimes it is simply a matter of geography: what is (and isn’t) available in your community. (In general, people living in larger centres tend to have a wider range of face-to-face support options than people living in smaller towns.)

When you’re researching your various support options, whether online or in your community, you’ll want to consider both formal supports (like parent support groups hosted by non-profit groups or children’s mental health treatment agencies) and informal supports (like support from another parent you know or support via a group of parents who have formed a group text loop or social media group). Both types of support can be invaluable. Don’t feel like you have to stick with one or the other. You can never have too much support!

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Sometimes an online or face-to-face parent support group feels like a great fit—and sometimes it doesn’t. If your gut instinct is telling you that a particular group isn’t quite right for you, you might want to consider tapping into other sources of support. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to stumble upon a group that’s right for you, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone.

If you are a parent/caregiver worried about your child, or a young person looking for help yourself – please reach out. Our network of child and youth mental health centres have 4,000 professionals ready to help children, youth and families with free counselling and treatment. We provide care in person, on the phone and virtually. No problem is too big or small.

Find your closest child and youth mental health centre.

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