In conversation with Suzanne Alderson, in this bonus podcast episode we discuss how Suzanne’s traumatic ordeal with her suicidal daughter led her to launching a community, now a registered charity, called Parenting Mental Health.
When her 14 year old daughter became suicidal in 2015, following a period of sustained bullying, Suzanne found herself in a desperate place, facing an uncertain future with little support and even less understanding. While her daughter was immediately wrapped in professional care, Suzanne found that there was no support available to help her or her husband make sense of the situation and give their child the best kind of care.
One night on suicide watch, she decided if she ever got through this time, she would ensure no other family had to go through this alone. In 2016, as her daughter improved, she set up a Facebook group to try and help other families facing their child’s mental illness.
The community, called Parenting Mental Health, is now a registered charity with a mission to end generational mental illness and help 1m parents by 2025. It currently supports over 25,000 parents from around the world who have a child with poor mental health. The charity offers a range of interventions such as Listening Circles and In Person Meet ups, training, Q&As with experts, social events and peer mentorship and community support and aims to support parents through their experience so they can support their child through theirs.
Partnering not Parenting is the approach that Suzanne conceived when her daughter became ill to deal with the challenging situations they faced as a family. Ignoring standard parenting wisdom, she took an alternative view of what was required to ensure her daughter stayed alive and then recovered. Going against the ‘common sense’, her approach successfully saw her and her daughter through a debilitating 3 years. This approach has helped many of the parents in the community to adjust their own behaviour by using the 3 step approach of Step Down, Stand Beside, and Travel Together, and connect with their child through very difficult circumstances.
While mental health services often look for the part parents play in the creation of the illness, Suzanne recognises the essential role parents play in supporting, shielding, and strengthening a child as they progress towards recovery, and she offers a range of training and mentoring to help educate and empower families to come through this time in the best shape they can. Her first book, Never Let Go – How to Parent Your Child through Mental illness – was published in 2020 by Vermilion, an imprint of Penguin RandomHouse, and she is currently writing her second.
In 2018, Suzanne was recognised as one of Facebook’s 115 most meaningful global community leaders and awarded a Fellowship to the inaugural Facebook Community Leadership Program. In 2020, Facebook recognised Parenting Mental Health as one of 16 of the most meaningful communities in the world.
Suzanne is a regular speaker on mental health, her lived experiences and parenting through adversity, as well as digital community building and how community can impact on health outcomes. Suzanne is qualified in Mental Health First Aid and was awarded the title Digital Mother of the year in 2020.
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