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Storytelling for Healing, Storytelling for Justice

Mothers on the Frontline is founded and run by mothers of children with mental health challenges to promote Children’s Mental Health Justice through storytelling.

Our vision is a world in which mental health is de-stigmatized, respected and prioritized as an integral part of the overall health of individuals, families, and communities.

We seek to disrupt deeply entrenched narratives of mother blame, particularly narratives surrounding motherhood of children with mental illness or mental health challenges. 

We strive to support, honor and center motherhood and caregiver healing.

Our Philosophy

Mothers on the Frontline understands children’s mental health to be a social justice issue in how children with mental illness and their families are treated and in how structural violence adversely affects the mental well-being of children.

The motherhood of children with mental health conditions has been marginalized and stigmatized in ways that are deeply connected with structural and systemic racism, misogyny, patriarchy and colonialism. This context silences the lived experience of mothers and degrades their indispensable knowledge about their children and their needs. This silencing both harms the well-being of the mother and prevents her ability to adequately advocate for her child.

We believe the experiences of stigmatized caregiving must be named and shared so we can integrate them wholly into our life, fully understanding ourselves so we may grow, learn and heal and be the best advocates for our children.

Our Children’s Mental Health Justice (CMHJ) framework treats mental health as a vital, integral part of the overall health and well-being of all children, families and communities. It considers biological, psychological, environmental, and social influences, as well as the structural violence caused by social, political and economic systems, that contribute to mental health and illness.

Children’s Mental Health Justice

  • Requires an integrative approach to treatment and wellness.
  • Encompasses the full spectrum from mental well-being to severe mental illness.
  • Is restorative rather than punitive, collaborative rather than behaviorist, and has as its goal well-being and agency rather than compliance to power.
  • Is inter-relational and interdependent rather than individualistic.
  • Values the lived experiences of children, families and caregivers as providing indispensable knowledge and wisdom necessary to articulate needed change.
  • Actively involves children, caregivers, and families in creating restorative, transformative, and collaborative systems, including:
    • Educational Systems
    • Health Care Systems
    • Human Service Systems
    • Justice Systems
    • Legal Systems
    • Community Systems

Our Practice

  • We facilitate workshops to help communities and organizations develop storywork skills among its members for healing, advocacy, and justice.
  • We normalize discussions about children’s mental health justice through our podcast series, in which mothers and other central caregivers share their lived-experience, helping listeners know that they are not alone.
  • We share lived-experience (through speaking and writing) with policy makers, community organizers, service providers, and the public to increase understanding of how children’s mental health intersects with other aspects of the lives of children, their families and communities and to advocate for positive policy change on these issues.

Our Areas of Policy Focus

  • Dismantling the Cradle-to-Prison Pipeline and School-Prison Nexus that disproportionately targets Black, Indigenous and Youth of Color; youth with disabilities, LGBTQIA youth, youth in foster care and youth living in poverty – particularly in cases of intersectional oppression.
  • Centering the knowledge and wisdom of mothers in the envisioning and creating of restorative and collaborative systems for our children.

Our Storywork Methodology*

  • Community Centered Participatory Research and Collaborate Community Research
  • Reciprocal Peer Interviewing in which interviewers share salient lived-experience with interviewees.
  • Interviewers are trained in empathetic listening and creating healing spaces that foster brave spaces in which participants can share their truth.
  • A profound respect for the storyteller’s ability and right to frame and contextualize their own story.
  • A deep commitment to the principles of Agency, Empathy, Transparency, Holism, Interrelatedness and Integration. Our approach is deeply influenced by the work of Jo-ann Archibald /  Q’um Q’um Xiiem *(Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit,  UBC Press, 2008.)

Ways to Support our work.

On December 18-19 shop the Kendra Scott Give Back Event online or at their Des Moines location. 20% of your purchase will go to Mothers on the Frontline. Use the code: GIVEBACK-AXDHN at checkout.

You can also support Mothers on the Frontline by shopping at Amazon Smiles anytime.

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