The Caring Together Art Journal Project

Mental health carers as partners in recovery

The blame game

There are times when I feel I just can’t get anything right at all. That as a mother I must somehow be responsible for my child’s problems, no matter what I do. If I turn one way then I’m wrong. If I turn the other way then I’m wrong too. I”m either too strict or I’m too soft. Too close or too distant. Too involved or not involved enough. Too anxious or not showing enough concern. Too loving or not loving enough.

A male psych nurse in the emergency department once said the same thing to me. It was strangely comforting. By actually voicing that mothers couldn’t possibly win – that people say we either love our children too much, or we love them too little – he acknowledged the issue of blame and empathised with me – and made it clear that he did not see it as my fault. It helped lighten my load that night.

Most clinicians our family has dealt with over the last couple of years have been completely non-judgmental. It’s obvious that the old fashioned habit of automatically blaming parents for mental illness is going out of fashion. They know how unhelpful it is, and how it can make working with families impossible. Thank goodness for that recent change in culture.

But, even so, blame still pops up its ugly head from time to time. The medical model of having to label the cause of a problem helps keep it alive. As long as clinicians are forced to tick boxes labelling parents as too permissive or too involved (making judgments about what they are doing wrong), rather than considering carer needs (which is a much more positive, non-judgmental way of looking at the same issue), it will continue.  Consider the difference between labelling a parent “over anxious” (which is blaming) vs offering strategies to deal with their understandable anxiety (which is supportive, normalising and non-blaming). Which attitude is more likely to lead to a therapeutic relationship and create positive change?

Blame doesn’t just come from other people. We do it to ourselves too. I often wonder where I went wrong, and what I could possibly have done to save my child this pain. That’s natural too. But how long can we keep questioning ourselves? All we can do is our best. No-one is perfect. Certainly not me. As a parent I know I don’t always react in ways which are helpful. Sometimes I get it wrong. Often, in fact. But is that so different to any other parent? For all my mistakes, I don’t believe that I am such a bad parent that I could possibly have caused ALL of this. Certainly no-one who really knows us seems to think that.

Clinicians who actively fight feelings of carer guilt are priceless. I am so grateful that I know those clinicians, and that they are now in the majority.

Story by private contributor. Illustrated by Helen Wilding. 2010

Cite as: Anonymous. (2010). The blame game. The Caring Together Art Journal Project. Retrieved from

Comments on “The blame game”

What is the point of trying to proportion any blame anyway , looking for who to blame . How productive is it? It’s not going to assist in the person overcoming what they are dealing with is it? Experiencing guilt also is not that useful although it seems par for the course maybe as we question ourselves along the way, Families needs encouragement to dismiss any feelings of blame and guilt they may harbour and instead be encouraged and empowered through information and support to find the strength to move forward .

Comment received on “Blame” 30 October 2010


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