Shades of shame: An autoethnography exploring the role of shame and the stigma of childhood mental illness within the educational system

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White, Claire
This autoethnographic study explores the challenges faced by a parent caring for a child with serious mental illness through a storied reflection of personal experiences, focusing on the internalization of stigma, reactions to perceived stigma, and related consequences. Within the context of parental advocacy within the educational system, it addresses the research question: As a parent of a child with severe mental illness, what meaning does my experience with parental shame and stigma have for myself as a parent and as an educator? In this reflective study, personal narrative is interpreted through authentic, relevant research from the field, addressing themes of teacher-parent relationship, caregiver stress, isolation, failed parent ideal, delayed help-seeking, blame, care burden, shame, and support and validation. The study’s findings encourage empathy and understanding of these potential impacts, with recommendations for the provision of stigma reduction interventions by teachers and schools, and the promotion of educational advocacy for families caring for children with serious mental illness.
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