Reprinted from "Parenting" issue of Visions Journal, 2004, 2 (2), p. 3
A public education campaign in the UK is called “Every Family in the Land.” The message carried in the title is that mental disorders affect all of our families in one way or another. One of the most direct ways this can happen is when a parent has a mental disorder, where the impacts are felt not just by the parent her or himself, but by the extended family, the spouse, and by the offspring.
There’s a growing awareness that parental mental illness – the scope of this issue of Visions – is fairly common. People with mental illness want to parent, and do parent, at about the same rate as the general population; with the right kind of support, they make good parents. As Dr. Rob Lees points out in his guest editorial, we’ve come a long way from the time when mandatory sterilization was government policy, to when child removal was commonplace, to the more progressive approaches that are starting to spring up in various places today.
To reflect this progress, we’re very fortunate to have contributions from some of the international leaders in the field, such as Joanne Nicholson of the US, and Vicki Cowling from Australia, who outline some of the ‘best practices’ that are developing in their countries. One thing common to the best of these approaches is that they are based on a thorough understanding of the experience of parents and offspring – many of whom are grassroots leaders themselves, and whose stories of struggle and recovery appear in this issue of Visions.
As we put together this issue on parental mental illness, we realized that we in BC are not alone. In many countries throughout the world, a group of advocates – including community advocates and concerned professionals – have been working hard to make things better for parents with mental illness and for their offspring of all ages. We also realized that this work – produced literally ‘off the side of the desk,’ or off the side of the kitchen table – has translated into all sorts of programs, resources and information – and also into growing societal awareness of what can be done.
It’s no exaggeration to say that taken together, all of these various efforts represent a worldwide movement to improve the lives of parents with mental illness and their families: a movement from the side of the desk to centre stage.