This is a common perception among people trained to provide mental health services. Despite evidence that 68% of women and 57% of men using mental health services for “severe and persistent mental illness” are parents,1 Medicaid and other national systems fail to collect data on the parenting status of people accessing mental health services. The invisibility of parenting as a central role for most people receiving mental health services reflects deeply imbedded stigma within these systems. If data were collected, support services would likely follow. Fear that systems are already depleted, underfunded, or overstretched allow policy makers to miss the opportunity for wellness that exists when parents with mental illness are recognized and given support services.

1 Nicholson, J., Biebel, K., Williams, V.F., & Katz-Leavy, J. (2004) Prevalence of Parenthood in Adults with Mental Illness: Implications for State and Federal Policy, Programs, and Providers. In Center for Mental Health Services. Mental Health, United States, 2002. Manderscheid, R.W., & Henderson, M.J., eds. DHHS Pub No. (SMA) 3938. Rockville, Maryland: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Chapter 10, pp. 120-137.