High Energy, High Hopes and HIGH-RISK!
Addressing the Ignored Mental Health Needs of Mothers with Special Needs Children
The Struggle Across a Mother’s Lifespan
Mothers of children with special needs experience:
Depression (2-3 times higher) and anxiety
Illness and fatigue
Blame that she did something to compromise her child’s health
Guilt that she can not do enough to meet all of her and her child’s needs
A need to control her own expressions or emotions, and those of others
Isolation (family, friends, school, dating relationships, faith community, etc.)
Lack of understanding regarding a child’s behavior resulting from special needs
Loss and mourning at every life benchmark that her child doesn’t reach (e.g. no graduation, no livable wage/job, no marriage, no grandchildren, unending responsibility to parent, etc.)
Violence and uncontrollable behavior
Higher divorce rates
Fear and worry of aging and dying
A lack of resources for herself and her family
Job and career struggles
Financial strain (from costs of specialists and impact on the job)
A Need for Action
Mothers of special needs children must have their own need addressed. Initial steps to call attention to this important issue include:
National education campaign to raise awareness of what special needs families go through. This will help reduce stigma and isolation, while building a broader support network.
Peer support programs where mothers can provide support and validation. Peer support should be a medically supported and reimbursable expense and is essential to the awareness of behavioral and other health concerns.
Behavioral support benefits for the mother so that she can remain and active caregiver, avoiding the costly placement of the child/adult in an institutional setting.
Attention to integrated family care, where services are coordinated across systems, not only to support the health of the special needs child and the entire family.
Workplace accommodations so that mothers can provide the needed care for their special needs children without risk of job and wage loss.
About this Advocacy Effort
MOM2MOM is a peer support program based at Rutgers University Behavioral Health. The MOM2MOM program was designed as the missing link for mothers of special needs children, realizing that these primary caregivers experience loss, depression, violence, isolation and more. Support is provided via a hotline, support groups, live chats and referrals.
This advocacy effort was done in partnership with the GLASSBOOK PROJECT, a collaborative effort of Artist Nick Kline and Witness Justice, a national nonprofit organization addressing the needs of survivors of trauma and violence. The Glassbook Project is an artwork that builds understanding of responses to trauma that often cause stigma or discrimination. Mothers involved in the MOM2MOM program created an advocacy glass book, with artist Sarah Stengle, that is to be exhibited in New Jersey and around the country to raise awareness and garner support