Motherhood, mental illness and beyond

The letter – part 2

A week ago I wrote this post after discovering that DH and I had been reported to Children’s Services. I am pleased to say that today I have spoken to Children’s Services again and, despite a second complaint from the same individual after they read last week’s post, they will not be investigating further. In fact, having spoken to the healthcare professionals who regularly see DH and I, Children’s Services are confident that our children are at no risk whatsoever. Of course I’m sad that the NSPCC and Children’s Services had to waste their precious time investigating groundless complaints but in a way I think it’s a good thing; it’s far better to check out every report than for children who really are at risk to be overlooked. Social workers have a seemingly neverending and often thankless task but their work is invaluable.

The main cause of the calls to the NSPCC seem to be (and I’m quoting from what the social workers have told me) that DH and I have mental illnesses, that I am open about my mental illness, that our children have poor nutrition and most recently that we have “so many bad days” that we are “on the dole”. Now, our children are obviously well-fed and being on benefits is no crime, despite being embarrassing or shaming to admit to at times. Equally, having a mental illness isn’t a crime but there is a lot of stigma and many people don’t really know anything about it. That’s partly what prompted me to start blogging, because I was tired of hiding my mental illness when I didn’t feel it was necessary to hide my physical illness.

I will admit that this incident has made me wonder whether I should continue blogging and tweeting so honestly, or whether I should stop. After careful consideration and discussions with numerous people I’ve decided to carry on as normal. If nothing else this whole sorry episode has demonstrated just how much ignorance there is about mental illness, and if I can help people to be better informed then that can only be a good thing.

To the person who reported us I would like to say this:

I’m sure that you’re happy to hear that my children are well-cared for and not at risk. It’s a shame that you felt unable to approach DH and I before speaking to the NSPCC; we’re nice people and can take criticism, especially if it comes from a place of genuine concern.

If you would like to learn more about mental illness you can access some great information at Time To Talk and Mind, while the Mental Health Foundation has a good explanation of stigma here.

I hope your mind is now at ease as far as my children are concerned. Yours,

Sam.

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Comments on: "The letter – part 2" (25)

  1. I’m so glad this has been resolved, but very sad that you had to go through such an upsetting experience. I think this sort of thing reflects a lack of understanding about the role of social work as well as of mental illness. I’m impressed by how calm and reasonable you’ve been about it all – very good skills for any parent to have! I’m glad you’re going to keep blogging and tweeting too.

  2. Oh I’m so glad, and not at all surprised by their findings.

    As you say, it’s good they followed up on the concerns of anon, but anon really should have thought carefully before taking such action.

    Kinda pissed though that they felt your openness about your mental health etc, deserved another complaint. As a fellow mental health issue sufferer I’m glad you share your experiences, the more open we are about these things the less taboo they will become and people wont be so quick to jump to conclusions.

    I shall send you cake and balloons to celebrate!

  3. I’m with drama llama – glad you’re sticking with it and I think you’ve handled the whole thing with grace and composure, something many many others would not have. Glad it is now resolved, and hope the individual with concerns feels they are now put to rest.
    Take care
    Lucas

  4. I speak as someone who has probably seen more of your happiness and sadness times over the years than many. I’ve seen joy, despair, silly and sensible, modest you and bounce around excited you. I’ve been comforted by you when my world is tumbling and supported by you through all my early (and current!) parenting worries. You’ve celebrated my DD and my own successes and laughed at our endearing stupidity at times.

    Before you were a mother I knew you would be an amazing one someday. Now you are x2 I look at your children and think how lucky they are and how blessed you and DH are to have two so well turned out kids. This isn’t an accident; it’s good parenting and love that has made them as wonderful as they are. I see how cheerful, polite and content they are and I’m in awe to see what each year as they grow brings.

    I too agree that social services have a duty to protect children and I support that they looked into the complaint made regarding you and DH’s abilities to parent but I had no doubt, not for a second, that it would turn out to be unnecessary.

    I love you, DH and your children very much and I’m proud of you for how you’ve managed this. It would have made me sad to see someone who is so vibrantly making a difference to people’s perceptions hide away because of one person’s misguided views.

    Keep blogging; keep opening the eyes of those who don’t know and being a candle for those suffering themselves but most of all keep being you… Xx

    P.s any spelling and/or grammatical errors I solely blame on my cat trying to scratch his head on my phone the whole time I was writing this! Xx

  5. great news sam:).I love your refreshing honesty about mental health.I hid my mental health problems for years because i was afraid social services would take my child away from me.If anything,i think you’ve raised a very important ,albeit,sad part of society and the way we still think of mental illness.I really hope you and your family enjoy the rest of the summer and can relax now:)xxx

    • Yes, I took a long time to seek help the first time I had PND because I was frightened that I would be reported to Children’s Services. The irony of this happening now instead, when I’m actually stable and discharged from psychiatric supervision, isn’t lost on me!

  6. Counselling in your Community said:

    Sad to read that you have to endure being reported but delighted to hear you are keeping up with your blog. Your blogs and honesty is a step forward to stopping the stigma around mental health.

  7. Good for you Sam you have felt with this admirably despite it being no doubt difficult. It was obvious social would find nothing wrong and I’m glad that’s bee proven as the case. Big hugs to you and dh

  8. So it’s someone who reads your blog? Nice. Hope they read the comments and feel ashamed of themselves.

  9. I’m so sorry that this happened to you. It’s just indicative of the way that our society views people with mental illness (and people on benefits). IMO the Coalition should shoulder a LOT of blame for this. They’ve systematically made life harder for people with mental illness/claiming benefits since they got in power, and it’s ordinary people who are led to believe that people with mental illnesses are violent, uncaring, unable to function or take responsibility for minors. Obviously this is bullshit, but it’s so hard to stop people from believing what the media and the government tells them everyday.
    I hope you’re alright, IMO being open to your children about mental health is better than hiding it away. Children get scared by things they don’t understand, from personal experience I can tell you that this way of dealing with things is better for your children. Stay strong!

    • Thank you. I agree that being open is better than hiding these things. Not that I go skipping around warbling “I’m mentally ill!” but as the children get older and start asking questions we will answer them as honestly as we can in an age-appropriate way. It’s entirely likely that one or both of them may develop a mental illness themselves, so I feel I’d be doing them a disservice if I was anything other than open.

      • So true. In my experience, growing up around family members suffering, but not being told what that suffering was, or that it was an illness, made me interpret their behaviour as a rejection. So for me it would have made a huge difference to understand that it was just illness, and probably would have made my own depression easier to handle when it came about. We all make mistakes and I don’t blame my parents for not making me aware, but I am glad you’re making sure your children understand, because when you don’t understand, especially as a child, you learn to believe whatever explanation your imagination comes up with. x

  10. I am so very sorry this has happened to you and DH. I hope this person is now aware that having a mental illness and being on the dole is not a form of child abuse. In fact I admire you and DH, it must be hard and you provide so much support to your children, this is unbelievably evident by your tweets/blogs. I’m so glad that the situation has been resolved x

    • Thank you. Twitter and the blog are very useful tools for expressing my thoughts and feelings in a safe (or so I thought) place instead of doing it where the children could hear. I’ve had so much support and met so many lovely people as a result.

  11. hennessysmother@yahoo.com said:

    Yes, I do feel better.

    I knew that I could not help you myself, but that you needed help; you and DH both, along with the children.

    My concern was never over how open you are with your health, only that your health hinders you and possibly hinders your and DH’s ability to properly take care of your children. I have had too many experience in my life of similar situations wherein the children eventually had to become the parents, while the parents’ mental health deteriorated to the point where they could not care for themselves, let alone their children.

    I am thankful to the NSPCC for them taking the time to look into your situation and I am very relieved that they have found nothing that concerns them enough to keep investigating. But I do not regret contacting them, and I would again if the situation warranted it. I just want you and your family to have a healthy, happy life.

    • I’m sorry that you felt we needed help, particularly as the healthcare professionals and social workers have quickly agreed that that’s not the case. May I ask why you didn’t approach us before taking such drastic action?

      As for the children becoming our carers – firstly neither of us are ill enough for that to be a concern, and secondly no-one in our families would ever stand by and let that happen.

      Thank you for caring enough to be concerned, but perhaps next time you’re worried about someone’s ability to look after their children you could consider discussing it with them first. They may well be able to alleviate your worries without the professionals having to get involved.

  12. Hi Sam – I have just caught up and am so pleased all has been quickly resolved, as we all knew it would. I am speechless regarding “HennessysMother” and his/her views on MH and parenting. I really don’t know what to say, other than urge them to look into the websites you suggest in your post, and try to educate themselves. Attitudes like this will only ever encourage me to talk about my mental illnesses.

    Thanks and love kx

  13. Reblogged this on Human Experience and commented:
    Im sorry this had to be you. Its a beginning. Its gonna take more of the same because mental illness has been hidden for so long. Having 2 parents helps I think. I lost my kids 3 times and got them back 3 times. I was honest with the social worker regarding my mental illness and that i felt i was a better mother to my kids when i was in reg medication. I was a single parent no child support.
    I am also being honest on my timeline on FB since July 2012 regarding my own mental health. I will no longer bare shame alone for something i cannot help and i will no longer hide others who blame me for my situation and use that as an excuse not to help.
    With my kids grown now and trying to draw my ssd i can no longer scurry around in shame. I stood up again for what i felt was right and ended up homeless and living in the woods. Its all on my FB time line. Susan Green Campbell

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