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Casual Contributor

Growing up with parents with mental illness

From age 12 I grew up in a single parent family with a mother with a mental illness for many years. As a young teenager, I had no idea where to go to for advice and support.  Finally, as a young adult I have summoned the courage to talk to a consellor about my experiences. I am finding it very usful and am getting some strategies for better coping and managing our relationship.

She recommended these forums as a way to perhaps meet other people who ahve been through similar experiences. So i'm wondering if there is anyone out there who also grew up with a parent with a mental illness?



Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hey Jane, I am wondering if you have checked out the website for children of parents with a mental illness, COPMI.
The website is

COPMI has loads of resources and I think they also might run groups for young people caring for parents..


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi Jane, I'm sorry to hear how difficult your childhood was. I became carer of my nephew off and on for years because his Mum, my sister, was also a single Mum and lived with schizophrenia. It's so very difficult, both for child and parent. It's good that you have joined this forum. Welcome.


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Thanks very much. I didn't know the site existed. It has some good info.


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi Jane1,

Just want to say, welcome to the forum!! I am sure you will find some really interesting and caring people here, and hope you enjoy getting involved in some interesting discusisons.



Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi Jane, I've only just discovered this forum too. I have a father with BPD. I'm 18 years old, and I can very much relate to your situation.

Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi Jane1!


My mum has bipolar, schizophrenia and a few other things I forget. She's been like that since before I was born.


For me, it was only in my teens that I knew something was different about Mum and in my 20's that I figured out I'd been caring and looking after her (and my little brother) since about age 5.


I'm now 30 and we dn't currently have contact (her choice). It's been a tough journey and I don't expect its over just yet.


Hope you find some solace in the support of others with similar experiences.


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi Jane

I am new to the site.

Both of my parents were diagnosed with schizophrenia but I did not realise what that meant til well after I left home at 16.

Part of me hoped that I could love my parents to good health, ie if I was perfect for them, everything would be alright, but dad died.

Part of me questioned whether my mother was actually schizophrenic as she SEEMED to have an amazing recovery when I became a parent and my health physical and emotional crashed.

Good luck in your journey.


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness

Hi everyone

My nephew and nieces have had an extraordinary journey being brought up by my sister who has severe chronic mental illness. They have thankfully also had regular contact with their father, though have spent more time with their Mum. They come across as healthy and resilient, but I know their lives have been extremely unusual. My sister is very socially isolated due to being very hostile and threatening in her manner. She has been escorted by police to hospital, has been the victim of violence etc. I have tried to keep in touch but can't tolerate her anymore. Her youngest daughter is now about 13 and has her father keeping an eye on her, so hopefully she will be ok.


Re: Growing up with parents with mental illness


It is so hard when families are struggling to know the best thing to do .. to be available, in contact, or when that it will be seen as meddling.  In the end I guess we all wing it.


Realising that mother had been diagnosed was tricky as she was very angry that I had even tried to find my file.  I dont think she ever forave me for finding out as she tried to set it up that everything was my father's fault .. but I always knew that was not true as I had 2 good years with him before he died. It was sad as she did do well, but its probably not a sign of mental health to forbid discussion about life and death issues becasue she was uncomfortable ... that never changed and she held a rigid cast iron wall up to defend herself.  I never wanted to attack her just come to terms with all the confusions in my childhood. In the end I was forced to collude with her delusions and mostly kept to topics that she liked. In the end the only time she admitted any discussion of her or our institutionalisation was in her last year of life.  About 10 minutes in 2 discussions.  It was not really enough for sane living and my sibs death is strong indicator. of that.  So I kept to music topics .. which is a great thing, but not if it is used to cover serious MI problems.

I survived cos I watched others and tried to learn myself.  Eg., the fact that I was good at making beds (hospital style in orphanages) was threatening to her and made her angry at me.




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