The role of suicide and mental health in adoption are topics most people don’t want to hear about. As an adoptive parent, I’ve been writing and speaking out about it for years, and I know how painful and difficult it can be. That said, we need to talk and learn, and work toward suicide prevention and better mental health.
This Saturday September 12, Adoption Mosaic will host a panel called “Adoptees, Mental Health, and Suicide Awareness: Breaking the Silence, Breaking the Stigma, as part of their “We The Experts” series. The experts are adoptees, who share their lived experiences, as well as professional expertise. If as an adoptive parent you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall for discussions like this one, here’s your chance to listen to and learn from adoptees. I want to give credit and respect to the adoptees who will participate: they will be helping so many others with their courage and experience.
The focus on the “We the Experts” events is adoptees. Please share this event (and others in the We The Expert series) with adopted adults and others who may be interested. Non-adopted folx are welcome to attend: as listeners, as learners, as supporters of adoptees. Not as experts, not as authorities, not as dominating voices.
As an adoptive parent, I learned a lot about adoption as my kids were growing up. My sons were babies from the US when they were adopted; my twin daughters were 6 years old when they arrived from Ethiopia. All my children identify as Black; their adoptive dad and I are White. My children are all now adults in their 30’s.
Over the years, we have had a lot of conversations about adoption. My four children’s perspectives on adoption vary greatly, around wanting or needing to search for birth family, around how they react to friends asking about their birth parents or why they were adopted, around trust, grief, Mother’s Day, and fairness. As children, they participated in adoptee camps and workshops, more or less willingly depending on age and mood. They dealt with memories or the lack of them, with baby photos or lack of them, with family tree assignments (never lacked them). As adults, they have settled into their identities, on their own terms, subject to change.
Questions and issues around adoption don’t end magically when adoptees turn 18. Children grow up. They seek out partners and relationships, and adoption can influence both. They have children themselves, who are not adopted and whose parents were. Those biological connections are powerful. As a mom, a grandmother, and the parent of adoptees, I continue to see the impact of adoption, and to learn.
One of the best ways I’ve been learning recently is through Adoption Mosaic’s “We the Experts” series. Depending on the topic, we get to listen to adopted adults talk about their experiences as parents, and how being adopted has affected their relationships with their children. We can learn why or why they chose to search for their birth family, how they have retained or rejected the religion they grew up in, what their relationships with their fathers have been like, and most recently, how they view DNA testing. In August, there was a great conversation about LGBTQ+ folx and adoption. The panelists talked about coming out to adoptive families, sexual orientation and how it can affect reunion, how dating and adoption can intersect (among other intersectionalities), and more. There was so much to say they held another session the following Saturday, and I have no doubts many conversations are still going on.
The panelists are consistently amazing and insightful. The adoptees attending the events ask great questions and share thoughtful comments. Astrid Castro, a Colombian transracial adoptee and thought leader in adoption, is the founder of Adoption Mosaic, and she facilitates the discussions. I especially urge adoptive parents, whatever age your adopted child is, to take advantage of the opportunity that is Adoption Mosaic’s We The Experts series.
Adoption Mosaic has several resources about adoption and suicide posted on their facebook page as resources for the September 12 panel.
I want to also note a few other resources, by and for adoptees. One is Stop Adoptee Suicide, an Facebook page that provides resources. Another is this post from Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV), “Dealing With Adoptee Suicide.”
Another important event will be Adoptee Remembrance Day, October 30, 2020. “Adoptee Remembrance Day is a day to recognize all of our brothers & sisters who are adopted, that didn’t survive adoption. It’s also a day that signifies an acknowledgement of loss for adoptees because before we’re ever adopted we experience the biggest loss of our lives that’s continuously ignored by our world today. Over the years, the adoptee community has had multiple conversations on creating a day set aside for adoptees, but we’re ready to bring this to life as a way to raise awareness and honor those adoptees who are no longer with us. It’s important that we don’t forget them and after all we’ve lost, adoptees deserve a day just for them.” – Pamela Karanova. Pamela is the force behind Adoptees Connect, whose goal is to “focus on putting adoptee voices first by creating a safe and valuable adoptee-centric space, created by and for adoptees, where their voices can meet and be heard.”
In recent years, the number of adopted adults who are speaking out about adoption has increased greatly. Each one has an important perspective to share, and I am glad to see their wisdom being acknowledged. Discussions around mental health and suicide remain challenging, in and outside of adoption, and each of us feels a terrible sorrow at the news of an adoptee dying by suicide. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Let’s keep learning, together.
A crisis text line is available 24/7. That link will take you to text lines in other countries as well. In the US, you can talk to a counselor right away by texting HOME to 741741. If you or someone you know is in an emergency, in the US call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 (or your country’s emergency number) immediately.