We seek to support Daughters and Sons as caregivers, advocates, and co-survivors of mental illness in their relationships with parents and the "health care" system. As Daughters and Sons reach the point where they are able view their parent from an adult perspective, they begin to seek out the types of support and education that established mental health advocacy organizations typically provide. Yet, by the time they reach these organizations they often have a lifetime of experiences that have gone unrecognized. Adult Daughters and Sons face stigma as a group, refered to as "damaged" or "hidden victims" and often seen through lenses of mental illness pathology, reinforcing the common fear of Daughters and Sons that mental illness is their destiny.
As mental illness can occur across class, race and a wide variety of socioeconomic demographics, there is great variation in the experinces Daughters and Sons have in their relationships with their parent(s). But, we have identified some commonalities among individual characteristics, challenges faced, and support needs sought after:
Ambiguous Loss is a form of grief, which is common among Daughters and Sons. It differs from bereavement, in that it doesn't provide a since of closure or understanding to the loss of a loved one. It's impact on Daughters and Sons can occur at any stage in life. Abiguous loss is defined as having two types:
- Physical Absence, but Psychologically Present - This may occur when a daughter/son has no contact with a birth parent. A daughter/son may have been removed from custody as a child, or a parent may be incarcerated, etc...
- Psychological Absence, but Physically Present - A parent may be present in a child's life, but may not be fully responsive to his/her needs due to symptoms of depression, anxiety, dementia, etc...
- Creative Orientation
- Tolerance of Difference
- Willingness to Challenge the Status Quo
- Emotional Expressiveness
- Sense of Humor
Transition to Adulthood
Mental Health Services
- Psychoeducation - There is a great need for psychoeducation programs, which are tailored to address experiences and perspectives specific to being a Daughter or Son.
- Peer Support - Daughters and Sons need opportunities to interact, who experinced similar events and have similar support needs.
- Mental Health Professionals - Mental health professionals need training to recognize and support the needs of persons with parents with mental illness.