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.

Health Care System Fails Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED)

The health care system has failed to address the needs of persons with serious mental illnesses (SMI) and serious emotional disturbances (SED). 4% percentage of the adult population, age 18 and over, living with SMI. 1 in 4 individuals with SMI live below the poverty line. 25x the suicide rate for individuals with mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder is 25 times higher than among the general population. 1 in 10 youths in SAMHSA's CMHI program had attempted suicide prior to receiving services. 2 million approximate number of persons with SMI admitted annually to US jails. Only about 1 in 3 people with mental illness in jails or prisons is currently receiving any treatment. 7% to 12% of youth under age 18 who have SED.

The Way Forward: Federal Action for a System That Works for All People Living With SMI and SED and Their Families and Caregivers

The Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) has released a report detailing a plan for helping adults with serious mental illness (SMI) and children and youth with serious emotional disturbances (SED). The report includes current needs of individuals with these issues, advances in clinical care, as well as extensive recommendations for improving the way we address these challenges. (Quoting NAMI California email dated January 18, 2018)

Press Conference

Members of the ISMICC discussed the recommendations in their first Report to Congress during a press conference on Thursday, December 14, 2017. The findings and recommendations in the report have the potential to spur federal action to revolutionize behavioral health care by increasing access, quality, and affordability of care. (Quoting

Full Report
Executive Summary

New Year’s Resolutions

Love more, Worry less, Exercise more, Eat better, Laugh more, Stay stable, Finish my memoir

Thank you,, for inspiring me to borrow and amend her resolutions for myself.

  • Love more
  • Worry less
  • Exercise more
  • Eat better
  • Laugh more
  • Stay stable
  • Finish my memoir

Bipolar on Fire‘s list included:

  • Find a job [she] can enjoy
  • Find a place [she] can call home that is peaceful and safe and affordable.

Thank You, My Love, for All You Do

Wedding Kiss Close-Up
Our wedding day kiss at Cal-Neva, North Lake Tahoe.

Thank God my husband, a civil engineer, provides for us well. He makes life much less stressful for me. Honestly, he shoulders that stress. He does a lot around the house — too much, for which I feel guilty that I’m not doing my fair share.

Over a decade ago, I kept our house immaculate, like something out of Architectural Digest. I was an overachiever at home and at work, but didn’t take care of myself and was not available to adequately care for our son. Since overworking led to voluntary psychiatric hospitalization, I’ve made caring for myself and our son a priority, and put housework on the backburner.

I’m truly blessed to have my husband in my life. He’s my caregiver, and I’m grateful for all he does. Thank you.

2017 Year-End Wrap-Up

In 2017, this blog was viewed almost 17,000 times by over 10,000 visitors. Since I started writing this blog in September 2013, I’ve enjoyed almost 80,000 views from over 40,000 visitors. 2015 had the most blog activity with over 28,000 views from over 13,000 visitors.

When my mother had a stroke November of 2015, I took on increased responsibilities and wrote less about living with bipolar disorder. Starting September this year, I started organizing my posts into a book. As the holidays approached, I temporarily set aside that task, for this time of year exhausts me. Even though my parents are both still alive and happy, I miss them, as both have dementia.

Most readers (over 5,000 views) landed on my home page or searched my archives (Posts by Categories, My Blogging Journey, or using the Search box).

Top Five by the Numbers

  1. 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause — 671 views (Perennial favorite list shared from in 2015. I’m fully menopausal now. What a relief.)
  2. Freud and the Church — 550 views (I’m a psychodynamically-trained former psychotherapist and have attended Fuller Theological Seminary.)
  3. Mystic or Mentally Ill? — 489 views (Is it possible to be both mentally ill and a mystic? Perhaps. Perhaps, not.)
  4. Am I Still a Mental Health Blogger? — 443 views
  5. About Me & This Blog — 310 views

Favorites, Numbers Be Damned

  1. Barely Fiction: Kate.1
  2. Barely Fiction: Kate.2
  3. So Easily Broken
  4. I do not whisper. I ROAR.
  5. Bad Mom

Thank you, Readers! Hope you all have a Happy New Year! With love, Kitt.

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.