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The Stigma of Raising a Child with Mental Illness

I came across a feature story on 60 Minutes that I found incredibly pertinent to our mission of eliminating the stigma around mental health.  CBS Reporter Scott Pelley researched the topic for nine months and spoke with dozens of families across the country.

A panel of mothers with children suffering mental illness agreed to be interviewed about their struggles with the healthcare system and the different challenges they face as parents. One mother describes having to check her daughter who was suicidal out of the hospital three days after her submission, because her insurance company refused to continue her care. The insurance representative told her that because her daughter was not an “imminent risk to herself or others,” at that moment, she no longer qualified for coverage. After being discharged, the young girl was resubmitted only three days later after having severe hallucinations of bleeding walls and statues telling her to kill her mother.

Another mother speaks about being asked to consider surrendering her daughter to the state in order for her child to continue her stay in the hospital.

“The hospital social worker told me, “If you give your child up to the department of Children and Families then she would have insurance coverage through the state and she could stay.””

“Give her up?” asked Pelley.

“Yes, give her up!” she affirmed.

“And you said what?”

“Absolutely not,” she said.

One of the mothers admits to feeding into the stigma around mental illness herself when her daughter was hit by a car and luckily only suffered a broken leg. She tells Pelley how her church group, neighborhood and local community gathered together and brought the family casseroles. Little did they know the same child had just spent two months in the psychiatric ward; no one brought casseroles. The mother admits, “I don’t blame the church, we didn’t tell anyone,” she admitted that she was afraid of what people would think.
As the interview concluded, the reporter asked the women one final question. “What’s the difference between being the mother of a child with mental illness, versus being a mother of a child with heart disease or cancer?”
The women said it all in one word, “Sympathy”.

Stories like these are becoming more common as there has been a significant decrease of facilities that offer long term care and little mental health support from insurance companies. One would hope that this would change with parity. These much needed facilities are usually expensive and insurance rarely covers stays longer than three to four days. Government has cut nearly $4.5 billion dollars in mental healthcare funds across the country since 2008. This past April, President Obama passed a bill that would establish a $900 million, two year pilot program in eight unspecified states to offer a broad range of mental health and substance use treatment services, including 24-hour crisis psychiatric services, while setting new standards for provider organizations. The Excellence in Mental Health Act is a long awaited turning point in terms of federal support of community mental health!

Follow the link below to watch the entire “60 Minutes” interview:

For more information on The Excellence in Mental Health Act, go to:


About Jill Sauser, The Kim Foundation Project Coordinator

Jill graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Speech Communication from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. During her time at UNO, she completed a two year PR practicum program where she worked with numerous nonprofit clients including the MS Society, The Archdiocese of Omaha, The Omaha Food Bank and YWCA. Jill joined The Kim Foundation as Project Coordinator in April 2014.