Pearls of Wisdom

By Ruth Abebe, Wood’s Homes Family Support Counsellor.


Parents experience tremendous amounts of stress when their children are facing mental health challenges and are often unclear on where to start or who to talk to. Although we are fortunate to have a number of mental health support services available, families continue to struggle alone as the fragmented nature of the mental health system makes it challenging to obtain the information and supports needed. 

Often this leaves families feeling as though they have exhausted all possibilities and find themselves turning to the hospital emergency department for treatment and/or crisis supports. 

A few years ago, the Acute at Home program set out to help bridge this gap in services by providing families who are transitioning from hospitals with safety planning, parent coaching and service navigation. 

Over the years, our team has had many opportunities to hear the experiences families have had on their mental health journey. Listening to the stories of our families help us to better understand their unique yet similar experiences, and provides knowledge and insight that theory or research cannot capture. 

Families who have these lived experiences offer something valuable to others who are starting their journey or those who may feel lost along the way. Wisdom arises from life experiences accompanied by the ability to reflect upon them to find value, purpose, and meaning. In this context, even the most difficult and poignant experiences have value embedded within them. 

We want to highlight these pearls of wisdom. The following have been generously shared by parents on their experiences in supporting their children’s mental health: 

  • Everything we learned was a reminder to go back to basics and it felt safe, not earth shattering. We were relieved to talk to someone. 
  • Be open to it. My child and I look a lot different from day one. Everyone can get something from it, but you have to be open. 
  • If you are experiencing crisis for the first time, don’t wait to get the support your family needs. 
  • There is help out there! Don’t feel shameful for needing more support sometimes. Life is hard, but people are here to help. 
  • I recommend telling parents not to wait as long as I did to get my child help. 
  • As scary as it is for parents to see our children hurting, don’t be more afraid of taking the leap and asking for help for your family. 
  • It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to ask for help. Parents out there could have a long journey. Things may work, or they may not. Get angry, frustrated and cry, but remember that you are NOT alone. 
  • Unlearning old habits and acknowledging how my behaviors were impacting my child was a hard pill to swallow, but this is when things got better for us as a family. Understanding that this journey had just as much to do with me as it did my child was eye opening. 
  • Parents – it’s not selfish to look after your own well-being. We can only be so helpful to our children if we can’t tend to our needs. We need support as well so that we can be strong and resilient FOR our kids. 
  • Helping children accept help may be one of toughest parts and we, as parents, will need more support in these moments – which is OK! Something wasn’t clicking for my child; I believe things may have been too overwhelming and he was not ready to deal with the challenges THAT he was experiencing. I can’t speak on behalf of all children’s experiences – they’re all different and will respond accordingly – but if they aren’t ready for the help, that is OK too. As parents, there are ways for us to walk alongside our children in their journey to healing.