Parents of Disabled Children Need Mental Health Support Too: Experts Explain Why

Disabled children need extra care and support, so do their parents.

Mind It
6 min read
Parents of Disabled Children Need Mental Health Support Too: Experts Explain Why

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A recent incident of a mother in Bengaluru throwing her four-year-old child from the balcony of their fourth-floor apartment has sent shockwaves through the city, and has once again raised questions on post-partum mental health of new mothers.

What would have prompted a mother to take her own child's life?

What Happened?

According to media reports, on 5 August, the Bengaluru resident, threw her hearing impaired child off the balcony of her fourth floor apartment. After her daughter's demise, the woman tried to jump down herself, but was saved.

The entire incident has been recorded in the CCTV camera installed in the apartment.

According to reports, this is isn't the first time the woman has tried harming her daughter. She reportedly tried to drop the child off at the railway station once before.

In the CCTV footage obtained by the police, the mother is seen looking down from the balcony after this act, and climbing on the railing of the balcony, which is now believed to be a suicide attempt. She was rescued by neighbours.

The incident has prompted serious questions surrounding post-partum mental health care of new mothers.

Do we all take the mental health status of mothers seriously? What is the mental condition of the parents of children with physical or mental disabilities?

What steps should be taken to prevent such extreme incidents? Who is to be held accountable here?

FIT speaks to experts.

According to experts, it's normal to have 'baby blues' after childbirth, but they usually go away in 1 to 2 weeks after delivery.

However, if symptoms last longer than that, it could be post-partum depression. Post-partum depression can prolong and cause serious mental health issues if left untreated.

Parenting Disabled Children

Every child is different, and has different needs and challenges. The way to deal with those challenges is also different for everyone. However, in the case of differently abled children, new parents can feel easily overwhelmed and experience heightened stress. Every day can feel like a challenge to some.

Dr Deepak Gupta, Child Psychiatrist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi, tells FIT, "it is true in the case of such children (differently abled) that the mental health of the mother and the rest of the family is also affected, and it is common for the mother to have depression."

That's why it is important to get the right help (therapy) at the right time, he explains.

"Often in such a situation, the mother just keeps looking after the child, and does not take care of her physical and mental health. But in such a situation it is necessary that if the mother is suffering from depression, she (or other family members) seek help from a psychiatrist".
Dr Deepak Gupta, Child Psychiatrist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi

“The first few months of birth are also very challenging," says Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, Expert, Mental Wellness and Relationship, Artemis Hospital.

"There is a lot of pressure on the mother, and when she gradually understands that her child is facing some kind of problem, there is a lot of mental pressure on both parents to accept this and deal with it," she adds.

The stress level of the parents of children with disabilities is much higher than the parents of other children. Especially in the case of the mother who is the primary caregiver of the child.

Every day, the mother can become a victim of mental illness while constantly battling with unusual problems for herself, family and child.

What Can Parents Do?

According to Dr Deepak Gupta, what parents should and should not do depends on the form and degree of disability. He says, “We have some children who have very little problem, and some come who have more problems."

"In such cases we have to involve the therapist. These therapists must work closely along with the parents . This can be an occupational or a behavioral therapist".
Dr Deepak Gupta, Child Psychiatrist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi
  • These therapists work with the children and guide the parents. However, it is necessary that the parents have patience and listen to the therapist.

  • Their schools must be appraised of the child's condition, and parents should make sure necessary arrangements are made to accommodate their needs. Some schools give more support, some do not at all.

  • Also, it is necessary to maintain a diary, in which all the issues and improvements are noted and share it with the therapist.

There is also a lot of stress on the caregiver, it is also very important to take care of them.

"It is very important to keep the mother's mental health right here. And it can become challenging."
Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, Expert, Mental Wellness and Relationship, Artemis Hospital

Things Parents Should Keep in Mind

In this it is necessary that both husband and wife take responsibility together. This includes taking care of the medical needs of the child as well as taking care of each other's physical and mental health.
  • Exercise everyday

  • Do meditation

  • Don't panic, and keep your composure

  • Get support from family and friends

  • Social support is also important

  • It also helps to be part of a social support groups of people going through similar challenges.

  • It is also necessary to take support from the school / teacher

  • It is very important for parents to take counselling/therapy when required.

Experts explain that it is very important to take care of yourself, only then can the child be cared for well.

"Parents often get upset, frustrated in such a situation. But it is important to have faith in yourself. To say, 'no matter what happens, we will face the trouble and become the strength of our child.' Such matters do not get resolved in a few days, they take a long time, so it is important that parents should support each other at this time.
Dr Deepak Gupta, Child Psychiatrist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi

As Kids Grow Up, so Do the Stress and the Struggle Go Up

The struggle of disabled children is much more than the struggle of other children. Some may always end up needing someone's help.

It can take hours for a child, even with help, to complete a simple routine. They rely primarily on their parents for this help.

For some people, their problems increase when the child hits adolescence, because many times such children do not understand the things that other children of that age learn by understanding. For instance, things related to menstruation in girls.

It becomes difficult to orient such children sexually, explain the changes in puberty and reproductive health.

Also, it becomes difficult to handle peer pressure.


Caregivers Need Care Too

"Sometimes, people in the family point fingers at each other for their problems. It is important that we do not do this, and together the whole family should help the child and the mother, says Dr Deepak Gupta.

"In such a situation, it is necessary that the whole burden does not fall upon the mother alone just because she is the primary caregiver."
Dr Deepak Gupta, Child Psychiatrist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi

"It is necessary for the rest of the family members to help and support her. It is important that the family does not blame the mother and support her in every way," he adds.

It is very important for a mother to take care of herself. If the mother is mentally healthy then only she will be able to take care of the child.

Caregiver stress is a reality, and getting out of it can be every bit challenging.

"The impact of this on a mother can be immense as there is increased pressure and stress to 'fix' the problem," says Dr Kamna Chhibar, Clinical Psychologist, Head – Mental Health, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare.

"Often parents blame themselves for the child’s problem. This can lead to excessive guilt, leading to There can be rapid mood changes, irritability or bad temper. This can leave parents feeling helpless because they do not understand what and how to help the child. Having a support system and It is necessary to take adequate information from professionals and experts in this regard."
Dr Kamna Chhibar, Clinical Psychologist, Head – Mental Health, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare

Pay Attention to Subtle Signs of Depression in Caregivers

Family members should pay attention to any unexplained changes in the behaviour of the mother/caregiver, as this could be an early sign of depression. Some signs to look out for are, if they,

  • Say negative things

  • Get nervous or restless

  • Feel sad and hopeless

  • Worry too much

  • Have anxiety

  • Sleep more or less than usual

  • Take no interest in things around them

  • Stop eating

  • distance themselves from family and friends

  • Get very angry

  • Feel no bonding with the child

  • Judge themselves all the time

  • Consider themselves a bad mother

  • Compare the child with another child all the time

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