Stigma against people who have a parent with mental illness is strong.

  • Media images of parents with mental illness are all too often images of the worst cases of abuse or neglect, whether they are fictional stories such as “Sybil” or actual and tragic situations such as the story of Andrea Yates. For this reason, many people assume that if you have a parent or parents with mental illness you have been abused. It becomes difficult to explain an often complex, but also loving relationship.

  • Mental health advocacy efforts that emphasize the “no fault” biological basis of mental illnesses also perpetuate a fatalistic image of mental illness as a biological destiny. (See “Isn’t that Herediary?”)

  • Pathologizing of mental illness can lead to hypervigilence within a person whose parent has a mental illness. They may feel constant fear that they will be ill like their parent or they may have been reared in families where they were often told that they might be next.