Friday, February 02, 2007

The very real statistics

Earlier this week on one of my Special Needs Internet Support Groups, a member informed the group that shortly before Christmas, her ex-husband committed suicide and before doing so took the life of their 7 year old son with special needs. While a suicide can often leave so many questions unanswered, this story leaves me very heart broken and a little angry.

The child had a rare mitochondrial disorder and required lots of assistance. The member mentioned that she and his Father had separated because the Father never could accept having a child with special needs. He continued to help with the child’s care on weekends but ultimately the stress involved primarily caused the break-up.

This loss saddens me and reminds me of the statistics. The statistics for marriage and life while also being parents to a child with special needs. When Jenelle’s issues just started to surface, a well meaning friend pulled us aside and gave us these statistics:

80% of marriages that have a child with special needs end in divorce.
90% of marriages will end in divorce if that child with special needs dies.

Talk about eye opening statistics. I’m a strong advocate for marriage counseling, and we did not hesitate to speak to someone upon being faced with these statistics. I believe we are stronger for having done so. I’m not saying the member of my Special Needs group is a failure for having divorced - I honestly have no idea if she and her husband received counseling or anything like that. With this sad story, I just felt an overwhelming need to get the statistics out there.

Before posting this, I wanted to get find some statistics to share about suicide, and even better if they could relate to raising a child with special needs. I didn’t find any that specific, but the majority of suicides are committed because of depression. And surely, raising a child with severe special needs can bring on depression. It is important to be aware of these facts; whether or not you are a special needs family or know of someone raising a child with special needs. The statistics need to be out there.

I’d imagine that the husband here took the child’s life as a way of ending his wife’s burden of being the majority care giver. Instead of helping her, he has devastated life as she knew it. Her only child and her daily routine are suddenly gone. I can’t imagine her grief and anger. It is just so unimaginable, but yet such a very real outcome surrounding some of the feelings one can experience raising these kids.

So, if you are the parent of a special needs child, or know a special needs family; check in on them from time to time. Make sure they are getting proper respite. Make sure they have coping skills and maybe even give them your ear to vent. The statistics are very real, and it is impossible to survive a life like this without help. If we are more conscious of the very real statistics, maybe sad stories like this would never happen.

OK, off my soap box. :)


Ben and Bennie said...

First I want to say just how sorry I am for your friend. I can't imagine what she might be going through knowing how much I suspect her identity was tied to her child.

Me and my wife were made aware of those statistics after our son's birth. Our marriage nearly ended about three years ago due to the deep depression we both shared. It was only through counseling that we survived and now thrive.

Your advice is so very meaningful and would also implore the parents of special children to seek professional help at the first sign of trouble. Excellent post!

Leightongirl said...

Oh so true. Thank you for reminding us of how tough the journey can be. And for asking others to check in. It's so important not to feel so alone.

Anonymous said...

Hi,My name is Kathy.
I was looking through the internet tonight and found your blog. It's so very refreshing to read your statements on having a disabled child.
I have a daughter, who will be 7 this month, and although she has different issues, she is a real puzzle and a mix of joy and frustration every day.
I'd love to talk with you...could you email me>

Take care and your daughter is darling!
Regards, Kathy