Being the parent of a child struggling with mental health is a formidable challenge. Charlene, a loving, educated and determined mom noticed signs of anxiety in her bright, gifted and outgoing daughter. So, she attended a workshop to learn how she could help. Seeing red flags in the presented material, she returned home and asked her 14-year-old daughter an incredibly difficult question: “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?” Her daughter answered “Yes.”

For the next four years, Charlene navigated a difficult part of the healthcare system that she felt doubted her. She responded by advocating hard even when she wasn’t feeling confident inside. But living in constant fear for her daughter’s life, she was always on and could never drop her guard. She became emotionally exhausted and desperately needed help.

Charlene Close Up
"I am in awe of the courage it takes for someone with a mental illness to get out of bed and just try again; even when life feels impossible." — Charlene

Charlene was referred to a Community Mental Health Worker at Lutherwood. “She attended medical appointments with us, took notes, asked questions, got to know us, and was a reassuring voice alongside us,” she recalled. “Finally, I had an ally who understood.”

“I agonized over the decision to enrol my daughter in residential treatment, and then confronted my own judgement – the one that said only ‘those parents’ who can’t support their kids send them to live away from home for treatment. The reality is, I was that parent and I needed help just as much as my daughter. Worse, the stigma of mental illness is isolating – no one drops off meals or sends ‘get well’ cards.”

Now that her daughter has completed treatment, Charlene sees positives from the experience. “My daughter asks for help when she is struggling. Her DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) skills help both of us. And sharing my experience has opened conversations with others who are grateful for the opportunity to share their struggles.”

Now Charlene is helping build a better children’s mental health system. She supports Parents for Children’s Mental Health and Lutherwood’s Community Advisory Committee. She helped rebuild a children’s mental health service access website. And last year, on stage at Lutherwood’s annual Steps For Kids event, she shared her journey with 700 people. “I want to thank you for raising funds for children’s mental health, and for joining others who may feel silent and alone. And, I want to thank my daughter for giving me permission to share our story – I am so proud to be your mom.”