Invisible Children's Project

Click here to see a PowerPoint presentation about Invisible Children

Seventy-five percent of women and of men with serious mental illnesses are parents. The negative impact of their illness on their children can include trauma, life-long mental health problems, behavioral and learning difficulties, and socialization deficits -- all compounded by the silence, shame and stigma of mental illness. The children of parents who have mental illnesses are often "invisible" to mental health service providers, children's advocates, friends and neighbors, schools, and society at large:

  • These parents may be withdrawn, have limited ability to nurture or display erratic and unpredictable behaviors; they may be abusive or neglectful.
  • Children of these parents may feel guilty that they are unable to take care of their parents, and/or that they were the cause of the mental illness.
  • Children may have inappropriate responsibilities placed on them due to their parents' illness, i.e., the “parentalized child.”
  • They often don't know that their parents are mentally ill, and think their home life is normal.
  • Children may undergo the trauma of multiple separations from parents if parents are incapacitated due to their illness or are hospitalized.
  • Children have higher likelihood of suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or mental illnesses themselves.
  • Many of these families lack social supports and are isolated.
  • Most (70%) parents with mental illnesses lose custody of their children - a tragedy for all concerned, and one which is preventable if better support for both parents and children could be provided at earlier stages.


MHA-Hawai`i is working with a consortium of agencies to improve collaboration and communication between organizations that serve these families, and has contracted with The Institute for Family Enrichment (TIFFE) to develop a parenting curriculum for parents with mental illness.

To download a copy of this information click here



Invisible Children's Story

A woman had to raise her siblings beginning when she was 21 years old when she discovered her twin 15-year-old sisters living alone after being abandoned in another state by their widowed mother who had severe schizophrenia. Their younger brother remained at home with their mother; he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and died in an institution.

Renowned ukulele master Roy Sakuma revealed a childhood of neglect and terror with a mother and brother who had schizophrenia. His way to cope was to get in trouble and drop out of high school.

A young woman and her siblings were put into foster care, not learning until decades later that their mother had mental illness. Growing up, she thought the abuse, chaos, and neglect at home were merely a “Filipino thing.”

You can help!

© Mental Health America of Hawaii
Powered by Wild Apricot. Try our all-in-one platform for easy membership management