Why Mental Illness is a Family Affair

Alddo Molinar
4 min readMar 23, 2022

Mental illness is not easy to deal with. When a person is suffering from issues like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, we may feel it’s up to them to get the help they need, but it’s difficult for them to move forward without the support of their families or close friends.

And beyond supporting their loved ones, it’s also important for family or close friends to be integrated into the therapy process. This will help them understand how they may be contributing to their loved one’s issues and what they can do to provide the care their loved ones need.

This article will review a family’s role in mental illness and what you can do if someone you are close to needs help.

Parents Affect Their Children’s Mental Health

A person’s actions can affect all family members, but a parent can typically have the most significant impact on children who are going through their formative years. There are many adverse experiences that can cause a negative reaction in children, including:

● Growing up in an abusive home, whether they are the victim of abuse or whether other people in the home are being abused

● Witnessing violent acts in the home or community

● Substance abuse problems

● Parents going through a divorce or separation

● Parents with mental health issues — these can affect the way the parent cares for the child, and disorders can be passed down to children

● A family member who is incarcerated

● A family member who commits or attempts to commit suicide

According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, one in three children under 18 will deal with at least one adverse childhood experience that can affect their mental health. 14% deal with multiple adverse experiences.

Parenting styles can also affect a child’s mental health. Parents who are overprotective can cause children to become stressed when they need to handle situations independently. Similarly, using a critical, dismissive tone on children can cause self-esteem issues that lead to anxiety and depression.

In other instances, children with overprotective parents may become curious about what they are being protected from, and they may take things in the opposite direction. For example, if a parent is overly afraid their child will try drugs and alcohol, it may cause the child to become curious to explore why their parent is fearful by trying out a drug to “see how it feels,” which could be a gateway leading to further substance abuse issues.

Other Examples of Mental Health Issues in Families

While children are especially susceptible to adverse experiences that may affect their mental health, they aren’t the only ones that may experience mental health difficulties.

Abuse can occur to any member of the family. There may be spousal abuse or elderly abuse happening in the home that can lead to trauma, depression, and anxiety.

In other instances, the stresses and responsibilities of daily life may get to be too much. A family member may be feeling overwhelmed due to having to support a family or care for an older relative and may develop anxiety and anger issues as a result.

It’s also not uncommon for a family member to be born with a mental disorder due to a chemical imbalance. If the disorder is inherited from another family member, it may be increasingly hard to maintain harmony in the household.

How to Help a Loved One Dealing with Mental Illness

If you have a family member or friend dealing with a mental illness, it’s vital that you get them the help they need. This will be the healthiest thing for your loved one, yourself, and your family.

Here are some steps you should be taking in providing support:

● Know the signs of mental illness: It’s important to be aware of the signs of mental illness so you can get your loved one help as soon as possible. Symptoms include changes in sleep and appetite, withdrawal from society, and a disinterest in doing the things that they once loved.

● Talk to Your Loved One: Talking to your loved one about their mental health can be one of the hardest things to do. When you approach them, show care and patience and don’t be judgmental about their feelings. Please encourage them to talk to a mental health professional and make it as easy as possible to get the care they need.

● Seek Support for Yourself: Dealing with a loved one with a mental illness can take an emotional toll. You may feel angry, impatient, and generally stressed. Make sure to keep your own mental health in check. Therapists often integrate family therapy which helps family members or partners learn the best coping strategies for caring for their loved ones and themselves.

Conclusion

Social support plays an essential role in a person’s mental health. The actions of family members or close friends can reduce stress, depression, and trauma or could contribute to it. However, continued support and encouragement helps ensure loved ones get the care they need.

Look out for the people you love to help them enjoy a high quality of living and emotional well-being.

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Alddo Molinar

Dr. Alddo Molinar is an anesthesiologist, based in Martins Ferry, OH, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.