The 2011 Federal Budget is especially good news for mothers with severe mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and depression.
More money has been allocated for early intervention, so that mothers and their children are not separated. Mothers with severe mental illness who can’t care for their children, often lose them to social welfare. This causes so much grief and despair for those mothers, heaped on top of whatever mental illness they are already suffering. Not only that, the children taken from their mothers can suffer from the separation trauma for the rest of their lives. I have lived through this because my mother suffered from a severe bipolar disorder and lost her children. None of us fared well at all and our mother had the added burden of deep seated guilt which she never overcame. (See ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’) Far better to offer help before the situation reaches crisis point.
In the dark ages of the past, mentally ill mothers were confined to lunatic asylums (as they were then called) with their babies, and all spent the rest of their lives locked up. Thank goodness those days have gone, at least in modern western countries. At the other end of the scale, after asylums were closed down, the mentally ill were all but forgotten.
The Richmond Fellowship of NSW, runs the residential and treatment program at Charmian Clift Cottages, which is one of a kind, supporting some of that state’s most vulnerable women and their children. A cluster of individual villas house women, suffering severe mental illness, with their children. The women receive 24 hour emotional and psychiatric support on site as well as ongoing training in parenting skills. Of course, there are not enough villas available, but the money allocated in the latest budget will help.
Philip Boyce, Psychiatry Sydney Medical School, Westmead, says this is a godsend for some of these women who will in other circumstances have had their baby taken away from them or placed into care.