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Advice on when or if our children should be told about mum's mental illness

Community Member


I was wondering if anyone could advise me as to whether or not my children should be told about my mental illness. It is really important at the moment due to the age of my eldest in particular of 13. I feel the need to now know firmly whether or not this would be to his detriment or make him understand some of the things he witnesses from time to time.

I don't wan't to make a mistake regretting it later on if I think it could of benefited our family but I don't wan't to make a huge mistake either. At the moment both of our children are doing very well socially and at school so I don't want to destroy anything. Recently I went back to my psychiatrist after using natural therapies only for sometime, but now things have changed a bit and the kids were asking about the appointment. I'm worried that keeping my mental health issue hidden will only make it harder if I'm ever not doing as well in the near future.

My instincts tell me to leave the children out of it but thoughts keep prevailing that it might help the kids see another part to mum.

Any advice would be appreciated,


9 Replies 9

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hey Sharny

I just responded to your other post. Can I ask you if its anxiety or depression that is bringing you down?

I have had acute anxiety from 1983 to 1996 and now depression...The forums are rock solid secure as you know.

Natural remedies do work for some people, for me they were a waste of many years. One of the 'natural remedies' available nationally contributed to causing internal bleeding and thus it was withdrawn.

Your children look at you as a rock. I hope you can provide some additional info so we can offer some quality support....We have spoken before on an older thread Sharny. If Its okay to ask if you have been offered medication and what you are suffering from..?

It depends on the type of illness/disorder, if you are unable to function on a day to day basis or unable to travel depends a lot on whether or not you should tell your children.

Just a sufferer's opinion Sharny, if you have a good try with the meds, then maybe re-consider your query.

You are an intelligent and well articulated person....These forums are rock solid secure...if you have even a little more info it would be a huge help

My Best


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni
hi Sharny, this is a very good question, because it's always a great concern if you do have depression and don't know what to do.
Well your children must know that your mood changes from time to time, either from extreme moods to days when you can only just cope, they will pick this up and could think to themselves 'oh that's just mum' and go on doing what they were doing, however if it's serious enough then your children may want to hide or disappear from you, and if this does happen then there is a problem.
They are most likely to find out by their mates at school, simply because someone will mention what has been happening with their mum or dad, so 2 and 2 makes 4, in other words they will know, but the way they find out is not how you actually are, so their interpretation could be wrong, then you will have a battle to try and explain to them how you feel.
You don't have to nessarily tell them the whole truth, just say that haven't been feeling well for awhile and that's why you have these appointments, but there is no need to worry, or just say it in another gentle way.
I wouldn't say that you do have depression, because they won't know what you are talking about, plus they may go to school and spread the word 'that our mum has depression', at the moment children are not well equipped to even understand what mental illness means, but if they say 'our mum doesn't feel well at the moment' then the other children will know what they are saying.
As time goes by and you are still suffering then you can tell them, but remind them that it may not be anything to do with them and for them to not worry. Geoff. x

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Sharny - this is just a personal view and only you know your kids, their maturity and their ability to comprehend. But, I think a 13-year-old is probably old enough to understand, and is possibly even hearing about or learning about anxiety and depression at school. There are numerous programs in schools these days on issues like this, plus things like RU OK day, Mental Health Week etc. So I doubt they would be entirely ignorant. And it is better they hear it from you, the true nature and impact of it as an illness, than get misinformation from Facebook or friends.

Mental illness is illness, no more or less deserving of treatment and compassion than physical illness, and I believe we need to fight the stigma by presenting it that way, including to our families and friends. There is no shame in it. And, if it helps your kids understand that your difficult times are because you are unwell - and not their fault, which they might think - then it could be a good thing.

There are resources on the main BB site to help you have the conversations. Please read around.

I hope that is helpful Sharny and, as I said, it is just my view.

Best wishes to you hun


Community Member

Hello Paul,

Thank you for your lovely reply again. I have Bipolar disorder but have underlying anxiety which can sprout from time to time. Currently I'm in the depressive phase but smaller scale ie I'm able to function taking care of family, household chores and cleaning, family activities like kids sport etc and the running them about. I just can't take on the previous areas I was involved in, started to feel incredibly overwhelmed so I've decided to stand down for the sake of my immediate family to help with the depressive side. Most of my suffering at the moment is in my mind, the thoughts are contained within my head so no one see's although I do feel my kids sense something. I'm trying to deal with them and maintain my functioning so I don't slide too far to the point of not being able to leave the home etc. I can make sound judgments and am not confused or lacking in concentration like other times with the depressive side of this illness.

I recently sought assistance from my psychiatrist again after quite a number of years just to look at triggers and vulnerability I'm feeling at the moment. I am still taking natural remedies via my natropath but am considering pharmacy again if I feel a tipping point or an activation to strong to deal with. The thoughts in my mind are not healthy at the moment but I have not slid into a slump where function is impaired in terms of completing tasks or getting out of bed etc. The thing with depression as you probably know, this can bubble up quite quickly or gradually work its way into new symptoms so that's why I've gone back for a chat with psychiatrist at this point because my brain is clogging up slowly with bleak thoughts. The thoughts are not as strong as to cement that irrational guilt though but rather centred on repeated feelings of desperation and wanting to escape myself which can lead other places very quickly.

I'm hoping that stepping down from current outside commitments might assist calm my setting more and enable focus on my yoga, meditation, eating plan which lapsed after I got too involved and neglected it. Menopause though is near and this has given me something to think about since psychiatrist mentioned the changes could bring out my bipolar to a higher level.

My kids are my world, they are genuinely caring and just normal children. Their coping abilities at school and resilience is amazing. I'm just worried about the 13 year old as menopause is near in case things get thicker.

Community Member

Hi Geoff,Thank you for replying. I get what you mean about them chatting to friends and then finding out through misinterpretation. That is a huge worry for me. Many adults can make assumptions about mental illness or even other illnesses with out clear, concise or correct information and then discussions happen leading to the wrong idea being formed.

My 13 year old is pretty mature and in primary school from year 5 the teachers led discussions regarding mental health disorders. Obviously none of them are trained professionals and probably from the sound of it skimmed over depression etc in their way of displaying information. It's good in a way that schools provide information because it allows discussion and awareness but I often feel since i have a mental illness that I'd like to give him MY experience of the disorder, my chance to nuture the discussion with him. Some might say it's me being controlling but it's just that i lived it particularly when the disorder was at a height, my husband lived it too. 13 is a tender age, mental illnesses are illnesses but they can be difficult to understand.

I think if I chose to tell the eldest, it would be important to do as you mention and make sure he knows that it has nothing to do with him. I sometimes think he senses there's something intense going on in my mind but i shield him, he's not silly though. I've tried so hard to give both kids a solid upbringing full of love, nuture, guidelines, balance, patience and fun. I just don't wan't to taint any of their lives. It's an illness of it's own but I often think some of us who suffer from it still have a tendency to protect our kids from knowledge of it which is sad because if I had another illness I would not think twice about telling the children.

Community Member

Hi Kaz,

Thank you for responding to my question. You have mentioned some key points regarding schools and the 13 year old. Yes he is very mature and his understanding of things is quite good. Because I'm his mother and our bond is so special I tread to that beat and have never wanted to show him the desperate side my mind suffers because it is dreary, it is bleak. I've never wanted him to hear such black thought processes because of the fact I'd never want him to blame himself (he doesnt have a reason to blame himself but my mind goes straight to that outcome). Parts of me feel if he knew he could grasp an understanding of what some people live through, realities that like it or not are there. We've visited my sibling (kids uncle) only when he's gone back home after stays in hospital and my son had asked only a few years back after over hearing his uncle had just come out of hospital, what was he in for. That particular time my brother had tried a second attempt at his own life through bipolar disorder. I went blank and then responded that it was difficult to explain and that he need only know that uncle was doing fine back home and had medication to help him.

My mind is terribly puzzled by which approach to take because of fear of tainting my relationship with my kids. They rely on me right now obviously I'm raising them to become responsible adults and don't want to scare them, making them tip toe around etc.

Community Member

Also, thank you for pointing out about bb info on having discussions with children. I will take a peek at the site. xx

Hi Sharny

Ive been thinking about your thread...and your eldest at 13......I am happy that I didnt articulate my illness to my daughter when she 13 as she had all the hormones and peer group difficulties happening at the same time.

I am not anti-natural meds in any way but have had a bad run with them compared with pharma meds.

If I may ask you Sharny how often you see your doc/therapist? When my symptoms (bubbles) burst I had a community health worker (psychiatric nurse) who insisted I see him every week....He had me crying like a baby after two weeks and after six months he gave me my life back....I wish he was still around...I just never understood why he had the box of tissues on the table.....now I know 🙂

Its just my experience Sharny but the 20 years of a minor dosage of an AD worked wonders especially when my daughter was 3 when I reluctantly started them. The AD's also kept me alert and able enough to sustain my mortgage/salary and co/car for 20 years too..not too mention the quality of parenting I could provide my 3 year old daughter at the time 🙂

And I was very anti-meds......and still am actually....but a diabetic needs their insulin too.....After 13 years of huge bills with my naturopath/homeopath/acupuncturist I just had no other alternative....

Meds aside....I wouldnt inform my daughter...(in 1996)

your thoughts would be appreciated Sharny, Hope you are doing reasonably okay

Paul x

Community Member

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your thoughts on this. To answer your question regarding my psychiatrist and i have a psychologist, I go as I feel needed. In the last month I've had four appointments. I won't go into previous pharmacy ( i did total 3 years) but i was never given anti depressant because they were not suitable for bipolar due to increasing risk of mania (this is what i was advised). I won't discuss on the board what i've taken during 3 years on meds in past though.

I've done a lot of thinking regarding letting my son know of the condition and I'm leaning more and more toward holding off for some time. I initially thought it might help my son to know everything I've endured but since realized I've also come a long way in dealing with the illness and have worked really hard at the whole picture. Right now I'm setting up my meditation, yoga and eating together with natural therapies of course and keeping at it watching out for changes. I have pharmacy in mind if I feel tipping point ever gets near ( for me this is certain symptoms) obviously menopause could be that time.

I know I'm there for my kids right now and I feel my son is going through his own changes so I'd like to shift the focus over and just be there for him during all of his own hormones etc.