Authors: Anne Honey, Melissa Miceli, Rachel Mayes
Event: 2017 TheMHS Conference
Subject: Community, Culture, Society,Wellbeing,Lifespan – Children, Youth, Adults, Older People
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Many women who live with mental illness are mothers and value motherhood highly (Dolman, Jones, & Howard, 2013). Yet they are at higher risk than other women of having their children removed from their care by child protection services (Park, Solomon, & Mandell, 2006). Little is known about what being a mother actually looks like for them after this has happened. The aim of this presentation is to explore the experience of mothering for mothers living with severe mental illness after removal of their children by child protection services. Interviews were conducted with 8 mothers and analysed using interpretive phenomenological methods. All mothers continued to identify being a mother as a primary life role and identity but, by necessity, enacted mothering in very different ways. Their mothering was now constrained and prescribed by external agents, likened to Greek gods, which imposed both boundaries to what they could do and an obligation to prove themselves worthy. Mothers experienced these Greek god-like agents as all powerful but also unpredictable and eminently flawed. Supporting mothers to manage their Greek gods and develop satisfying mothering roles is rare in practice, but likely to be critical to mothers’ well-being and recovery.
Learning Objective 1: The audience will gain an understanding of how mothers who live with mental illness continue to mother their children after child removal.
Learning Objective 2: The presentation highlights the need for mental health services to consider and attend to mothers’ parenting roles no matter what their custody status.
Dolman, C., Jones, I., & Howard, L. M. (2013). Pre-conception to parenting: a systematic review and meta-synthesis of the qualitative literature on motherhood for women with severe mental illness. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 16(3), 173-196. doi:10.1007/s00737-013-0336-0
Park, J. M., Solomon, P., & Mandell, D. S. (2006). Involvement in the child welfare system among mothers with serious mental illness. Psychiatric Services, 57(4), 5.
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