I tried to explain to my boss that my child is dealing with some mental health problems, so I might need to be away from work at times – and her response was to ask me what I did to my child to cause him to have a mental illness. How do I handle that kind of question?
Signed: Protective Momma Bear
Dear Protective Momma Bear,
First, let me apologize on behalf of all the ignorance in the world – questions like the one your boss asked you remind me that we still have a very long way to go in the fight against the stigma and the lack of awareness around mental health issues. No one “causes” a mental health problem in their children – your willingness to have a candid conversation about what is needed to help support your child through these challenges shows your incredible strength and courage. You know what is going to be needed – and you are willing to make your child the top priority in your life, no matter how stressful it is for you. You were asking for her understanding and support – and you were given senselessness! Although, to be fair, perhaps your boss really did not mean to be cruel, and was perhaps truly asking from a place of wanting to understand better (let’s give her the benefit of the doubt, to some degree). Sometimes, we don’t always realize how our comments can be interrupted by those receiving them.
I encourage you to continue your efforts to educate your work place and to get a plan in place that helps your family – you are doing the right things. I might also suggest nominating your boss for this year’s Darwin Awards, if you feel it’s a good fit!
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