Living with a child with mental illness who is violent

It would be so much easier if we could point to one clear cause of violence and abuse from children towards their parents. Once that was made obvious we could then wheel in bespoke solutions and solve the crisis in an instant. Sadly the reality is much different, with almost no end to the factors that might increase vulnerability, and often layer upon layer of complexity for families affected. Some situations get a (relatively) large amount of coverage: exposure to domestic violence and early childhood trauma for instance. Others are highlighted less often. While each family’s experience will be unique to them, there is much to learn from the experience of others, and the despair that is common to parents across the board.

Recently, Keri Williams posted on her blog a review of an HBO documentary, A Dangerous Son, a film about families with sons who have disorders giving rise to explosive and violent behaviour. (The trailer is available here if you are not in the US.) Psychology today also has a review of the film, and in interview with the featured parents. Both draw attention to the blog written by Liza Long shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Thinking the Unthinkable, which inspired the Director of the documentary, Liz Garbus.

The 90-minute film features three mothers who struggle immensely to find proper help for their emotionally disturbed sons. Audience members who had never dealt with children facing severe mental illness described the piece as heartbreaking and difficult to watch. However, parents of mentally ill children displayed a very different reaction; they felt a sense of validation and hope. They believe that this film could serve as the first major step in changing the public’s judgmental perception of children with mental illness and their families. Parents should be supported, rather than shamed, by their communities. (Psychology Today)

The hope is that the film draws attention to the needs of families for help, the misunderstandings around childhood mental health, the paucity of provision for young people, and the difficulties in accessing help.

Keri invites comments on her blog in response to her post. As always, you are welcome to join in the conversation here as well.


Filed under Family life, TV and video

4 responses to “Living with a child with mental illness who is violent

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate you helping raise awareness. It is far less discussed in the US, unfortunately.

    • I find your blog very interesting, but have been struck by the different approaches taken in different countries. Some of this is to do with funding I imagine, as well as the way different issues are understood and resourced. Please do keep writing, and I wish you and your family well.

  2. Thank you Helen for sharing this information I found it very interesting .
    My son is in a holiday let an hr and a half away from the family with 2 social workers until they find an appropriate placement for him as assisted living wasn’t working due to his mental health and neuro disorder.
    It’s been an awful time and I must have cried a river over him.
    One of the social workers has experience in mental health with children/adolescents . She’s doing a fantastic job and our son is interacting with her in every way .
    He’s taking his meds regular, off loads his thoughts , takes part in physical activities such as surfing , cycling and many more,
    He’s much happier and when he comes to visit there hasn’t been any violent out bursts which is fantastic news and doesn’t mind going back with her. Normally he’d do a disappearing act and go missing.
    We know it’s early days but it’s proved to us that if intense therapy is given in any form it will work.

    • That is such lovely news Beverley! Intensive work is always going to be important. It sound like there is also a lot of knowledge and understanding, care – and creativity going on here too!
      Very best wishes, Helen

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