I’m back home after a two day conference held near my area regarding mental health and disability needs- not only for the children we take care of but also for us as parents and care-givers. MFOFC stands for the Massachusetts Families Organizing For Change. We participated in a series of lectures, discussion round tables, networking as well as gaining perspective with a long afternoon discussion with a life coach.
The biggest thing I came away with from this conference is: I’m not alone in taking care of mentally ill children. There are families who’ve had a similar experience and had to push harder for the needs of their children. If there are people who have more effective resources that can benefit my children, I’ll use them. If there’s something that I’m strong in and can be helpful to other families, I can be there for them too.
The second thing I learned is that I truly have to take care of myself if I’m going to be the best parent for my children. Even if it’s only 5-10 minutes a day, deep breathing, going for a walk, taking a longer shower, laughing, engaging in a fun conversation with a friend- I have to do this for my own health. We as parents have to juggle so many different jobs during the day: taxi cab, nurse, lawyer, coach, mediator, supporter and so on down the line. You won’t be effective if you feel like you are in constant motion without room to breathe.
The most helpful part to find out is the number of different resources that exist- either online or in actual physical models. You may not think about this, but there usually is some sort of organization, either formal or informal, that exists for your particular need. It may be a support group, it may be actual therapy needs, it could be seminars, conferences, etc. all the way up to organizing support for government bills that help in the financial care for your family. And if you don’t see a group that meets your needs- feel free to start one with your local community.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. I know there is a stigma surrounding this. You may think it’s a sign of weakness or lack of capability if you have to seek out other people. But really look at other instances in your life where you help out others- even something as simple as assisting in your friends shopping needs, or helping out with household chores. We can’t live a successful life all alone. It’s better to be proactive so that when you are in a bind and need the help, you know you have a network of support ready and enabled.
As a father, I came away realizing that you may not think you can do much to help your wife with the raising of your children with mental illness and disabilities- and you would be so wrong. Your children need your love, they need your laughs, they need your ability in terms of transportation, they need to know when they can be strong and they need your support just in terms of being there. My wife and I have our own strengths, but when we come together we show our children what a family can be.
I’m so happy I attended and I’m ready to be active within this group to provide any help and support I can. This was a wonderful, refreshing weekend and I highly suggest anyone else with needs in the state of Massachusetts for mental health and mental disabilities seek out this organization. Their website address is: http://www.mfofc.org .