The Question of Having Children For the Mentally Ill

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IMG_8115This is a desert shot from the Big Island of Hawaii, a wondrous place where I rediscovered myself and who I really want to be

     Talking about children and the mentally ill is kind of a hot topic.  For starters, many people who have some of the more severe illnesses, such as Schizophrenia and severe Bipolar are simply on so many medications that even the sex act itself is nearly impossible.  Fortunately, there are medical remedies for that and some other things that can be done.  For those who can’t afford the price tag or side effects of drugs such as Viagra and Cialis, which are most of the time not covered by drug plans and can cost as much as $10 a pill, there are alternatives.  I can only speak of my own experience about something that I have found extremely helpful, a pill that is neither expensive or a serious drug, it is called Melatonin and helps with erectile dysfunction.  Melatonin is a hormone that you can find on most drug store shelves over the counter in the vitamin section that not only helps with sexual dysfunction, it also helps improve the sleep cycle, something many of us who have an illness struggle with.  I also should note that for myself, it is often much better to take a low dose of say 5mg and then skip a night or two  before using it again because I develop a tolerance for the hormone quickly and sometimes it doesn’t make me tired enough to sleep when I have taken it too often.

Drugs like Cialis and Viagra are still very helpful for men, but there are also a lot of resources online for people to learn more about the problem, and rest assured that you are not alone.  A quick Google search I just did came up with a few sites, one of them being

I would also like to stress though, that women often have very similar problems with sexual dysfunction, though they are not physically the same.  One of the best health sites I have come across is one set up by the Mayo Clinic that has an information page at the link here regarding women’s sexual dysfunction.

But what I really wanted to discuss today is the idea of being a parent when you have a mental illness.  Adoption and becoming a foster parent can be a difficult thing because often people who have mental illnesses haven’t got their lives in order as much as others who would be applying for the same thing.  Another thing I am very sure of is that it takes a good amount of money to raise a child, and one can’t always rely on support even from family members, but that in no way means it is out of the question, it just means that a lot of thought should be given to the undertaking.

As far as the fear many have that they will pass on their genes to their child, I think one has to remember that life with a mental illness can be just as loving, just as fulfilling and rewarding as life without, and that just about everyone has some kind of issue that could be passed on.  My mother had anxiety and depression even while I was in the womb and in no way do I wish now that I had never been born.  There were tough times, but now that I am in my 40’s and have the support I need in the home and in work and also my writing, I feel just as happy and valid as anyone out there.  I really think that an illness is no barrier to having children.  I do feel though that there are certain responsibilities one must understand before they decide to have children.  One of them I already mentioned, which is financial stability, another is that you may have to go off medications, or at least some of your medications while you are pregnant.  Certainly it is a very bad idea to smoke, drink or use illicit drugs while you are pregnant, this can almost certainly cause your child harm, but even if both parents of a child have Schizophrenia, there is still a 50% chance your child will not have it, and it just goes down from there.

When I think of people or talk to people who say that it is wrong to have children when you have a mental health issue, I am reminded of a program that was around in my home Province of Alberta for some time called the Eugenics board.  This was a program where people who were sick were actually sterilized against their will.  This is a horrible thought and a very sore spot in the history of our country akin to the mistreatment of Native people.  I haven’t got a lot more to say on this topic right now, I want to keep these blogs short and easy to follow, so I will leave some of my other information and thoughts for now with a promise that I will get back to you.  I also want to use this opportunity to say that anyone who has interest in writing, remember that writing and storytelling is a process that allows us to play and to feel better about things in our life, so if you haven’t taken my advice and started keeping a journal yet, please do so now and let me know how it is going at: when you do.  I leave you with the biggest, most important argument I have about today’s blog entry, a picture of my wonderful, playful, beautiful niece who has shown no signs of mental illness, but was afflicted by a genetic disfigurement called ‘cleft palette’ and I simply feel she is the most important person in my life and am in awe of the happiness she has brought to our otherwise grandchild-free family.

DSCF5632This is my niece, the miracle that is my sister’s only child

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