Sarah Fader: Parenting a Special Needs Child

Guest Post by Sarah Fader

Being the parent of a child with special needs is inherently difficult. But when it comes to a child who has mental health problems it is another echelon of challenges. I never imagined that my son would have special needs. But I guess nobody knows that they will have a child with special needs when they’re pregnant. There are exceptions to this rule. People find out that their child has downs syndrome or spina bifida or an obvious disability that can be detected in pregnancy. But mental health issues, that’s a different story. There are exceptions to this rule. People find out that their child has down syndrome or spina bifida or a very obvious disability that can be detected in pregnancy. But mental health issues, that’s a different story.

My psychiatrist told me there was a 6% chance that my son would develop depression; that was my first pregnancy and I had no idea what I was in for. I knew that my family had a genetic history of panic disorder, depression, OCD, and anxiety. So there was a good chance that one of my kids would develop one of these issues or something else that was mental health related.

But I was naïvely optimistic and thought it would not happen to my kids. When I first had Ari I was a new mom and figuring things out. The last thing on my mind was whether he would have mental illness. I was concerned with developmental milestones and the chance of him potentially having autism because that is what is stressed when you have a child. Even in the hospital they don’t talk about mental illness they talk about shaken baby syndrome. They talk about caring for your infant and making sure that you satiate that baby’s needs. Doctors warn you about postpartum depression and the baby blues but they don’t tell you about mental illness for your child.

So when my nine-year-old son started showing signs of OCD I was nervous. When my baby boy who wasn’t a baby anymore showed me that he needed help and was oppositional and had irritability and rage, I didn’t know what to do. There is an extended timeline in which things happened and I felt like they were out of my control.

What was out-of-control wasn’t me. The thing that I could not control was what was happening to my son. I was doing the best that I could I am doing the best that I can trying to find the doctors to help my kid. Trying to fight with the flawed mental health care system and find out what it is that he needs and how I can provide that to him. But I am one person and asking my friends for help is getting exhausting for me and for them. I don’t want to be a burden on others. I don’t want to ask for something that people can’t give. All I want is for my son to find peace. I want him to live a life where he feels like he can be himself.

Speaking out about what I’ve been dealing with has been difficult because I faced much judgment from people online when I share my struggles. As the founder of a mental health nonprofit organization it is bizarre to me that people would criticize me talking about mental health issues even as it relates to my family and more specifically my child. Would people be angry if I was discussing my child diabetes? Would people be upset if I was talking about a child that had cancer? Mental illness is just as it indicates, an illness.

I’m writing this for every parent who has a child who is dealing with mental health issues. You are not alone and you don’t have to stay silent. You can do what you need to do to use your voice. You can be private about these issues or you can speak out. You can internalize them or you can tell the truth in whatever way you need to: whether that’s in your journal, call friends and family, or speak about it online. There is no right answer to this struggle. Just know that your experience is valid and your feelings are real. I’m listening. We should all be listening to your story, because one in four people in this country have a mental illness and one of them is my child.

Sarah Fader 10 Step Depression Workbook

Sarah Fader is the co-author of The CBT-based 10 Step Depression Relief Workbook, which is available on Amazon. She is the CEO and Founder of Stigma Fighters, a non-profit organization that encourages individuals with mental illness to share their personal stories. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Quartz, Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, HuffPost Live, and Good Day New York.

Sarah is a native New Yorker who enjoys naps, talking to strangers, and caring for her two small humans and two average-sized cats. Like six million other Americans, Sarah lives with panic disorder. Through Stigma Fighters, Sarah hopes to change the world, one mental health stigma at a time.

Veterans Day and Mental Health

Veterans Day Mental Health

Read Mark C. Russell’s November 9th editorial published in The Seattle Times entitled, On this Veterans Day, where is the outrage over mental-health crisis?

Russell concludes with this call to action:

Honor our veterans this holiday by demanding the president and congressional representatives to urgently do the following:

  • Conduct independent investigations into the cause of the military mental-health-care crisis.
  • Establish a unified “Behavioral Health Corps” within the Department of Defense.
  • End hiring restrictions of licensed marriage/family therapists, mental-health counselors and clinical psychologists to address chronic staffing shortages.
  • Establish a “Joint Services Behavioral Health Lessons Learned Center.”
  • Compel the VA/military to ensure every veteran has access to all evidence-based therapies per the VA/DoD PTSD guidelines.

Mark C. Russell


NAMI | Support for Veterans & Active Duty

Nearly 1 in 4 active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition, according to a 2014 study in JAMA Psychiatry. On this page we focus on questions that military personnel often ask, concerning treatment resources, disclosure and staying healthy during the transition to civilian life. If you are having thoughts of suicide, the Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1.

Veterans Crisis Line

#BeThere for Veterans and Servicemembers - Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255

The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.


Hypnotherapy Mind Body Connection

Last Friday, I drove my son down to La Jolla (across the street from UC San Diego!) to see pediatric hypnotherapist and pulmonologist, Dr. Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP of Center Point Medicine. My son struggles with migraines (greatly improved with recent medication regime), depression, anxiety, eczema, and frequent school absences due to illnesses.

According to Dr. Anbar’s brochure:

Children who use hypnosis:

  • Become empowered to help themselves when they feel poorly, and are proud of themselves for being able to do so.
  • Feel better about themselves and their medical condition because they can help take control of how they feel.
  • Become aware of their inner strength that allows them to cope more effectively with all aspects of their lives.

My mother used hypnotherapy to help her battle non-Hodgkins lymphoma (along with chemotherapy and monoclonal antibody therapy). Hypnotherapy enabled her to feel more in control, and lessened her pain and anxiety. My father quit smoking using hypnotherapy. I’ve used self-hypnosis (all hypnosis is self-hypnosis) to perform well on exams (I studied, too).

Hoping that self-hypnosis will give my son a tool, an effective coping mechanism, not just for somatic illnesses that respond well to hypnosis, but for life. Somatic illnesses are not “just” in the mind. The mind and the body are connected.

Prayer, meditation and self-hypnosis all help body, mind, and soul.

Worn Out

Tired Collage
Photos taken & poem written October 2015. It’s that season again…


Not thinking clearly
Not able to complete sentences
Not able to answer direct questions

Fumbling with language
With spoken language
With what I hear
With what I read

So sleepy
Feared falling asleep
Driving to doctor’s office

Door locked
Looked at calendar
Over an hour early

Went back to parked car
Overlooking hill of eucalyptus
Enjoyed view

Tolerated gardeners
Noisy leaf blowers
Those things should be illegal

Wish I had slept
That extra hour
Though not sure
It would have helped

Seems there’s no refilling
This empty tank
No overcoming
This fatigue right now

Seasonal and situational
Wait it out?
Not sure

I Don’t Want to Write About #Suicide for #WorldSuicidePreventionDay

Do Not Want to Write About Suicide. Background image is chainlink fence with people playing basketball behind it

I don’t want to write about suicide
I don’t want the image of her
Clinging onto a chain link fence
Chef’s knife in hand
Chef’s knife inside of her
Looking through the chain link
At kids playing in the park
She mourned the loss of her son
She could not contain her grief
She could not hold on
She had other children
They no longer had a mother
My father no longer had a cousin
I no longer had a cousin once removed

When I was 18
I, too, wanted to kill myself
I thought the world
Better off without me
My family
Better off without me
The emotional pain
A living hell
But I didn’t kill myself
I sought help
I got help
But I was not a mother
Grieving the loss of her son

International Association for Suicide Prevention - September 10, 2017 - World Suicide Prevention Day - Take a minute, change a life.

World Suicide Prevention Day 2017