If a family member has a mental health problem, then all family members will be affected.  Depending on the severity of the mental health issue, it can sometimes lead to families becoming split and dysfunctional. It is not just the individual with the mental health problem that has difficulties, the whole family unit will be under strain.

Knowledge & Sharing the Load

Often the problems arise because there is a lack of communication and not enough knowledge about the issues surrounding mental health problems. For example, a person who is extremely anxious may need more support than an individual family member can provide. This has to be addressed and all family members have to offer support so the load of helping the anxious person can be shared.  Family members cannot just dismiss the other person’s anxiety. If they do not help the individual with the mental health issue and instead tell them to “Pull yourself together” or “Sort yourself out” the person may feel abandoned and become more anxious and depressed.

When someone is extremely anxious, they really are not themselves and there is little they can do about it, other than to seek help. Unfortunately, the family members may not know what to do, which is not surprising as they are not trained in psychology Although they are helping as best, they can, they may not be offering the best type of help.  

Mental Health & Bias

In family situations where there is a bias against mental health issues, it is even harder for the individual to seek help. In a family environment that regards mental health as weak or showing a lack of character it can have a devastating effect on the individual needing help.  Mental health is an illness and like all illnesses it has to be treated, not ignored or criticised. Having a mental health issue may not be as obvious as a broken arm, but it is just as painful. If you are a person who regards mental health in this way, then do some research, you might find that what you believe is incorrect.  A person with a mental health issue does not have a choice, so help them rather than criticise them.

Mental Health Disrupts all Families

Dealing with a family member who has a mental health disorder is exhausting and hard to deal with.  It is disruptive for the whole family and results in a stress filled family environment. However, getting angry or resentful is not the way to go. Instead, research about mental health, find a qualified practitioner to help you and then the whole family can move forward together.  

Splits in the Family Unit

If the family unit has fallen apart, remember that does not have to be for forever.  Reach out and speak to each other with a new awareness and understanding. Learn to say, “I’m sorry” and forgive yourself and anyone else involved in the family split. Take it slow but don’t ignore what is happening.  Work with all the family members to keep the family unit strong. Don’t throw away the family unit. You may all be different, and you may not always get along, but there is a bond and that bond is ‘family’. Keeping the family unit strong will help all members of the family, whether or not they have mental health issues.