HBO documentary explores challenges of raising children with psychiatric disorders

HBO documentary explores challenges of raising children with psychiatric disorders

The wide disparity in mental health treatment for men and women, colored people and whites, young and old, and children and adults cannot be overlooked. Many a times, their mental health needs remain unmet due to insufficient diagnosis, inaccessibility of proper services, lack of professional support and most importantly, stigma. A new HBO documentary talks about the state of mental illness in American children and how their families cope with the challenging situation while attempting to institute help.

The documentary, titled “A Dangerous Son,” talks about real-life stories of three such families and presents the hardships of mothers who make “herculean efforts” to care for their distressed children.

Children of different families united in their suffering

One of the children, Ethan, is shown having poor control over anger. He struggled with many psychiatric challenges like autism, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder and attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). His mother, Stacy Shapiro, shared that Ethan’s aggression started when he was barely two- or three-years-old. He would lose his control frequently over small things and it sometimes happened multiple times a day.

Unlike other families who might be deprived of the option to get professional help, Ethan was sent to a residential mental health facility. However, Shapiro was not very sure of the facility and felt scared. Moreover, there was no improvement in his behavior at the facility. There were times when the mother felt lonely and dejected but she believed in seeking support from people, through social media platforms.

Two other children, William Cooper and Eric Long, too suffered from mental problems, which made their mothers to doubt their parenting model.

Need to destigmatize mental illnesses and institute support

Director Liz Garbus wanted to show how challenging it gets for families to arrange help for their child and wanted her readers to appreciate them for efforts they put in rehabilitating their children. Garbus also said that it is a misconception that such children promote violence when they may in fact be the victims. According to her, there’s an urgent need to destigmatize mental illnesses and look after the needs of children.

While making the film, Garbus also met Virginia Sen. Creigh Deeds. His 24-year-old son had stabbed him before killing himself and despite being in position, Deeds had a difficult time arranging support for his son. Garbus shared that the cost of rehabilitation is skyrocketing in the United States but the cost of not getting the much needed services is even higher. At the New York premiere, the director invited all the three mothers and Executive Director of NAMI in NYC, Matt Kudish, who said, “I really see this film as a call to action for a broken mental health system in this country that has become more and more reliant on a broken criminal justice system. Let’s advocate for more access and programs because it really works.”

As per Shapiro, Ethan has been doing better now after receiving in-home intensive behavior support. She advices parents who suspect their children struggling with mental disorders to seek help at the earliest as the waiting lists are endlessly long. The earlier the intervention starts, the better it is. She is also of the opinion that one shouldn’t be scared to involve law enforcement if a child exhibits extreme behaviors just like William’s mother, Edie Cooper, did.

For Garbus, the enormous stigma attached to mental health is a great impediment in providing support to those in need. Her intent of making the documentary is to encourage people to talk about their issues. She hopes it will build understanding and empathy for the sufferers and their families.

Making recovery from mental disorders possible

Reputed for treating mental and behavioral disorders, Sovereign Health offers individualized and evidence-based recovery plans at its state-of-the-art mental health treatment centers in California. For more information on our top-notch mental health rehab in California or to locate our finest treatment centers, call our 24/7 helpline at (866) 973-7164 or chat live with a counselor.

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