Invisible children | The Forgotten Victims of Mental Illness

What happens to children who live with a parent who is mentally ill? Not so much, focusing on the documentary series Invisible children. Hosted by Varda Étienne, the show raises the veil of reality for these forgotten people who suffer from the blind side of the health system.

Posted at 8:00 p.m.

Alexandre Vigneault

Alexandre Vigneault
The Press

The interview was about to end when Varda Étienne’s voice was focused on crying. “We have to love our children and put them first,” the facilitator said, angrily. She says this while reflecting back on some of the evidence she has collected, imagining the suffering, fear and insecurity experienced by these children whose grief could be under the radar if they were rushed to the care of an adult present. in crisis.

Varda Étienne is not interested in the children of people with accidental mental illness. The idea had been on her mind for 10 years because she was directly concerned: the host, author and businesswoman had been diagnosed with bipolarity since the age of 14. And three children who witnessed and suffered different- another level of his attacks.

“My oldest son is 29 years old. I have had a guilty conscience for 29 years. I thought I hadn’t been a good mother for 29 years, ”she said. The impact of her illness on her children, she sees it especially through their anxiety and the feeling of being abandoned by her old age. The three – Alexis, Dahlia and Sacha – tell the screen what they went through … and all the love they have for their mother.


Alexis, Dahlia and Sacha, the three children of Varda Étienne

They are not alone. “A lot of people, a lot of children of different ages want to testify, Varda Étienne assures. For legality and so on, the people who testify are purely adults, but there are teenagers who also want to testify. »

That the experiences of Mathieu Caron or comedian François Bellefeuille began a few decades ago doesn’t change much in the picture, according to the host. Children living with a parent with a mental illness are still in the blind spot in society and in the health care system. “Nothing. Not from home,” he insisted.

Next Invisible children talks about the taboo of mental illness, of course. It also sheds light on the sad feelings children feel: the unconditional love for their parent … and the close conviction that things are not going well.

Often, nothing or anyone is there to help them understand what is going on.

The testimony of Mathieu Caron, who was raised alone by a schizophrenic mother, is particularly disturbing. At 8, he was given the responsibility of making sure his mother took his medication… At 9, he found out at school, in a more brutal way, that he had committed suicide.

Varda Étienne – “very humbly”, she points out – believes she has done a service to these adults by giving them a chance to name things that have been suppressed for a long time. Its purpose, however, is broader, of course: to show this fact so that it can no longer be ignored and to make things happen. Make sure that if a call is made because a parent is in crisis, the child is also cared for, reassured, accompanied. Especially if he grew up in a single parent family.


Varda Etienne

During his interview with The Press, Varda Étienne said she is discouraged and optimistic about the way in which Quebec society is dealing with mental health problems. Resources are still lacking, but there are few taboos. He hopes that someone in the government will see the series and say to themselves: “Time is serious, what are we going to do?»

The four episodes of the series Invisible children post on Tuesday in the section of ICI Extra

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