It is an understatement for me to say that I am in awe of the 30 mothers (soon to be 50) who are becoming the Warrior Moms Community. Mostly I am in awe of their willingness to “do whatever it takes” to help their adult child with serious mental illness to live a happy life… while also finding a way to enhance their own happiness. Amidst their pain and struggles, the Moms’ mutual support has become a source of joy for them.
At the soul level I sense that each Mom expresses to her adult-child that she will do everything and anything to help her child achieve and sustain his or her highest level of functioning and fulfillment. No matter how long it takes, she will not give up on him or her!
Who are the Moms’ partners in this pursuit? Warrior Dads? I think so. In fact, I am currently exploring the interest some Dads have expressed in having their own ‘Warrior Dads Community’. This will be interesting. Dads, males in general, seem less interested in forming community and more interested in just ‘fixing the problem.’ This approach can make it harder for Dads because serious mental illness is not something that can be quickly fixed. It takes time, often a long time.
Are mental health treatment and care programs worthy partners for Moms? Sadly, mental health treatment and care providers generally don’t offer Moms a can-do attitude that is anywhere near their level of determination. In my career of helping to start programs, I got to know around 4000 Moms. As I was helping to form the culture of each program, I tried to inspire staff to “do whatever it takes” to help each client with their individualized recovery objectives. People and individuals were more important than policies and ideology. Sometimes clients became “miracles”. I emphasized to staff that we were to “believe in our residents even when they might not believe in themselves”. We were also never to give up on our residents, which required staff to have a strong belief in themselves and a willingness to be flexible.
However, as programs ‘mature’ it is very difficult to retain this initial vitality. Systems, structures, rules and policies proliferate and harden. Words like “fit” enter the program’s language and culture. Consequently, a greater number of clients become “misfits” because their individual needs may not match the program’s ideology.
Moms become very nervous when mental health providers begin to say, “We may not be the best fit for your child.” What we need are more programs which, like Moms, say, “We will do whatever it takes, for however long it takes and not give up on your child.”
As I retired from program leadership, I became a therapeutic consultant and came to see this new role as a partner role for Moms (and Dads). As families pursue paths to recovery for their family member, they notice, in time, that there is no mental health system. There are only pieces, which seldom leave them with peace. As a therapeutic consultant I helped them to identify and weave the good pieces into a fabric of support, a personalized mental health system, as it were.
During my five years as a therapeutic consultant I worked with 300 families and was inspired especially by the courage and fortitude of the Moms I met. Together, we worked often with very complex and challenging situations. A few months ago, I transitioned my therapeutic consulting practice to Todd Weatherly and Maggie Smith, because I saw that they have the needed ‘can do’ attitudes with the fortitude ‘never to give up.’
Now, I find myself accompanying the Warrior Moms’ Community as a convener/facilitator. This Community’s newness and vitality are refreshing… and I hope Maggie (who has joined me in supporting them) and I can keep up with them as they grow. I can easily envision 1000 Warrior Moms or more in the coming two years. I think their combined, empowered voices will awaken the Mom Message in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of providers inspiring them “Never to give up and to do whatever it takes! Effective treatment is available; personalized recovery is achievable.” Moms will have little patience for partners who falter, find fault with their children and hesitate to commit. On the other hand, they will willingly work with partners who will not give up on their child.
It has been said “It takes a community” and that community may have arrived, The Warrior Moms Community.