Giving a Voice to the Silence offers positive angles to the issue that faces those with mental illness. Living with Schizo-Affective Disorder and being able to share my experiences with others, is the best way I know how to pay it forward. Life can be difficult, my goal is to bring a bit of hope to a place where many feel there is none.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Does a history of mental illness in your family dictate whether you will have kids?

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I read an article recently how a history of mental illness in a family can deter some from having children themselves. It is not really something I thought of when my girls were born. There is a history of mental illness in my family, my father was paranoid schizophrenic, I have Bipolar Disorder, and my father’s brothers live mental illnesses. It never occurred to me, however, that this could all be passed to my children.

As they grew older, however, I began to see things in them that I knew were indications that they may have inherited the family legacy in some form. My oldest, now 20, lives with OCD and ADD, My middle daughter, now 18, has ADHD, Tourettes and is Bipolar. My youngest, now 16, seems to have escaped “the curse,” but her temperament makes me wonder.

According the article, it is well known by mental health professionals that certain mental illnesses run in families. While they believe that inheriting Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder is around 1 percent, those who live with the illness or have loved someone with the illness may believe that number to wrong and even the 1 percent is too much of a risk. The difficulty when it comes to deciding to have children or knowing if the illness will be passed on is, there is no test to detect the possibility, as with cystic fibrosis or Tay-Sachs, it is a crap shoot at best.

There are actually two schools of thought by professionals. Some recommend seeing a psychiatric genetic counselor to explore the actual risk of the illness being passed. Also, those who have a relative with a mental illness and decide to have children, they will become more diligent, keeping an eye out for any sign that they may catch it early and they can help from the start.

Even with all the research and counseling, the stigma of mental illness alone, even with a 5 to 10% chance, can keep many from having children.

So, what do you do?

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