Mothers’ Decisions to Disclose or Conceal Their Child’s Mental Health Disorder

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Abstract

Parents of children with mental health disorders are often faced with the dilemma of disclosing or concealing their child’s disorder. These decisions have important implications for both child and parent. Our aim is to describe mothers’ experiences with the disclosure dilemma; specifically, we describe what is disclosed (or concealed), how, and why, as well as the consequences of these decisions. Data from interviews with 11 mothers of children (aged 5–13 years) with mental health disorders, and a participatory action research group (four mothers) were thematically analyzed. Mothers selectively disclosed (and concealed) to protect and advocate for their child. Their decisions were often influenced by, or were a reactance to, others’ opinions, with mothers not only avoiding, but also defending against stigma, and exercising their right to privacy. Despite anticipating negative feedback, mothers more often experienced empathy and support following disclosure. Recommendations are made for developing mothers’ confidence in disclosing.

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