AMHERST - The labeling has to stop. The mother of a local 12-year-old living with a mental disorder says society is failing her son and others with disabilities not recognizable to the eye.
"People label kids who have mental disorders as bad kids, delinquents and troublemakers," says the woman, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of her son.
But, she adds, a lot of these kids have disorders such as severe attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD) or other mental illnesses.
"These are chemical imbalances and they can't help what they do."
Her son has been diagnosed with ADHD but she says the family has an appointment with experts at the local Mental Health agency because she believes he also has conduct disorder.
"He's been on several medications for a number of years. He's got impulsive behaviour, and he doesn't have any remorse or emotions for what he's done. At school he has a poor attitude, he doesn't listen well and he has a short attention span."
The mother says punishing her son for his actions has little effect because he simply forgets about the punishment, and his actions, the next day.
"It's hard because he can be as sweet as pie. He has a good heart. He loves video games and family activities. He likes to cuddle up with me on the couch, but I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle."
As a Grade 6 student, the mother says her son's teachers and school administrators have been supportive of her plight but no one knows what to do about her son.
"We've been talking back and forth, and the teacher even called the other day to tell me my son had a good day. The teacher said we always hear about the negative and he wanted something to be positive."
The boy's mom says there are more kids out there other than her own in the same position, and she wants people to know that it isn't fair to label.
She admits her son has been in trouble with the police, but adds the justice system lacks the skill and ability to deal with kids in her son's situation.
If it was her daughter who has special needs, she argues, the police wouldn't treat her like a criminal because they can visibly see the disorder.
Because of her struggles she says she's lost faith in the system.
"I've tried to get help, but it backfired. The system is crap," she said.
Cumberland Mental Health's clinical manager Veronica Richards said nobody should be labeled.
"Those are pejorative things to say to someone, whether or not they have a mental disorder," she said, adding that when someone has something in mind, it's hard to change it.
While Richards might not think society as a whole has failed the boy and his mother, she does think there is room for some failure.
"I think there is a failure to understand if we label these people," she said.
Richards said some people might see another person as unmotivated if they don't complete tasks such as chores or school work, not knowing that could be a part of a mental disorder. But it also could be because of a lack of education.
The organization, said Richards, can't come out and say who it is treating and for what disorder, but it can equip family members and those diagnosed on how to deal with those situations.
There are frequent educational sessions on mental disorders open to the public which allows them to learn the signs, symptoms and treatment.
"And we can provide information on mental disorders to anyone with questions," Richards said.
When it comes to diagnosing a school-aged child, Richards said the school is usually engaged in the assessments and recommendations that might come out of the assessment.
The boy's mother might have lost some faith, but she hasn't given up hope.
"I'm hoping to make people more aware that these kids are not like normal kids. Their brains don't work on the same level as another kid without the disorder. There needs to be a better understanding of mental disorders and the labeling has to stop."