Ep. 163: Raising Children with Mental Health Challenges with Jan Stewart

Dec 12, 2023 | 0 comments

In her raw and emotional book Hold On Tight: A Parent’s Journey Raising Children with Mental Illness, Jan Stewart shares her deeply personal experience as a mother of two children with wildly different needs. Through the challenges of finding the right diagnoses and treatments, Jan learned to insist on an integrated partnership approach, leading her to then support other parents facing similar struggles.

She joins the podcast today to talk about this rollercoaster journey for her as a parent and how the experience led her to work in mental health governance. Her insight is profound because she has certainly walked in the shoes of an overwhelmed mother. Listen in to learn more about her journey and her advice for navigating the ups and downs of yours.


Show Notes:

[2:16] – Jan wrote the book to help people understand the pain and struggle in this journey and how to navigate through it.

[3:38] – First-time parents worry, but in Jan’s case, it took her years to learn to trust her gut. She knew something was going on.

[6:11] – Jan’s son and daughter showed completely different concerns.

[7:34] – Her children were so deep in distress; when doctors finally listened, Jan was able to seek the help they needed.

[9:27] – The “wait-and-see” approach puts things off for so long until a child is in crisis.

[11:01] – Jan doesn’t only provide support for parents, but also provides education.

[13:52] – You have to take a breather from time to time when diving into education. But you also need to stay current.

[14:28] – Take a collaborative approach with every single person that is a part of your child’s life.

[15:37] – If a doctor, therapist, or any other individual working with her child is not fully cooperative, Jan goes elsewhere.

[18:19] – The experience can feel like a rollercoaster, with a lot of ups and downs.

[19:08] – Be completely open and truly listen to your children.

[20:26] – Don’t hide information from your children, especially when it comes to taking medication.

[22:42] – Other family members may not understand or support you and your child. They may be misinformed and you can limit the amount of engagement you have with them.

[24:34] – The right friends will know how to ask when you need support and how they can help.

[26:58] – As a society, we have a responsibility to spread facts.

[29:06] – The process for parents can be very overwhelming.

[31:23] – Mental illness has such a negative connotation and even villains in movies and media are portrayed with mental illness.

[33:15] – Toxic positivity is also a problem on social media.

[36:21] – Find Jan’s book online and in some bookstore locations. 


About Our Guest:

Jan Stewart is a highly regarded mental health governance expert and advocate.  Growing up in New York and moving to Toronto after marrying a Canadian, she was untouched by major adversity throughout her youth and imagined a similar, happy life for her children. In her raw and emotional book Hold on Tight: A Parent’s Journey Raising Children with Mental Illness, she candidly describes the shock she and her husband faced when each of their two young children started exhibiting troubling behaviors.


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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.