Photo credit | HBO

A new HBO documentary, “A Dangerous Son”, examines the struggles of families raising children with serious psychiatric disorders.  If you’ve ever judged a parent while seeing a child lashing out, this doc will open your eyes to situations that can’t be managed with just discipline. And if you have a child you believe exhibits unusual behaviors, it can help you determine what to do, and what not to do, about it. It’s disturbing but important viewing. Watch it through streaming online services, YouTube or premium cable subscription. Here are four things parents can learn from the documentary.

Psychiatric Disorders are More Common than You’d Think

More than 17 million American kids have psychiatric disorders. In comparison, the American Childhood Cancer Organization estimates about 16,000 American kids are diagnosed with cancer each year. A parent in the documentary notes that we all hear about fundraisers for families struck by cancer, but rarely are people rallying to help those with mental illness.

Mental Health Illnesses Don’t Discriminate

While the children featured in the documentary are all boys, they come from different backgrounds and ethnicities. This isn’t one group’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem when one in 10 children suffer from a serious emotional disturbance.

Help is Limited, But Necessary

Governmental assistance for children with psychiatric disorders is extremely limited (the documentary covers why that is), so parents shouldn’t wait to get kids evaluated. Wait lists are long, so documenting diagnoses before a situation becomes critical is important. One professional notes that it’s rare for children with psychiatric disorders to harm others or themselves, but the goal should be “treatment before tragedy.”

Parents are Not Alone

Blame and judgment surround parents with children who act out. Because of this, these moms and dads feel misunderstood and isolated. Finding support networks in person or through social media is crucial and can be helpful.

The goal of the film is to encourage dialogue about mental illness and the importance of providing care to those who need it. Find more information here:


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