There's a Mental Health Problem in my Family... Now What?

There's a Mental Health Problem in my Family... Now What?
Sergio De Dios González

Written and verified by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Last update: 28 July, 2022

Unfortunately, humankind has been afraid of mental illness throughout its entire history. In many cases, it was because we didn’t understand them.

The search for explanations (paranormal, scientific, or religious), investigating treatments, improving the life of the people affected by mental health issues… This is the story of survival adapted to our species since we first began dealing with issues in mental health.

In the field of mental health, there is a special sensitivity towards severe or chronic disorders due to social stigma. With the closing of outdated institutions, these pathologies have become more widely known. Currently, the inertia is to walk towards rehabilitation (when the cure is not possible).

The greatest difficulty falls upon families who have children, parents, aunts, uncles, or siblings with problems beyond their comprehension or understanding.

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear.”
-C.S. Lewis-

The first impact

The patient’s family are the first ones to start suffering and worrying. Thus, they are usually the first ones to notice that there is “something wrong”. The family member is suffering from alterations in their behavior, emotions, and thoughts.

Usually, the beginning is very complicated. They go through bewilderment, not understanding, changes in diagnosis, and coming and going from doctor visits.

Actually, it could even include partial denial of the situation. The family starts seeing their son, brother, or father suffering and behaving in ways they would have never imagined. And above all, they begin witnessing how their life is falling apart little by little. It is the same person, but at the same time, it’s not.

A woman is crying and worried with a hand on her forehead.

According to the WHO, mental health alludes to “the way an individual interacts with others in their family, at work, leisure time, and with their community in general.”

When a loved one has an imbalance, we suffer, deny, question, and blame ourselves. Also, we often go out of our way in search of solutions and alternatives.

Negative emotions are part of the process

At any given moment, it’s not weird to feel anger, rancor, and frustration. The family is the backbone of an individual with this type of problem. The support, comprehension, tranquility, and balance offered by one’s family is essential.

“Mental health requires a great deal of attention. It is a great final taboo and has to be addressed and resolved.”
-Adam Ant-

Behind every person, there is a family history. A history that’s structured in phases of recognized adaption, where all of these thoughts and emotions are collected.

We’re talking about an alarm phase, a phase of resistance and exhaustion. Depending on where we are, we’ll get some guidelines or other help to assimilate what’s happening.

Thus, resources of mental health also include studying and applying the best ways to proceed with families. Or, at least, they do so as far as their reach extends, which unfortunately is very limited in some cases.

Facing the mental health problem is the most adaptive solution

Two puzzle pieces fit together.
After all of the previous whirlwind, where the family, the loved one, and their friendships are uprooted, the final and definitive diagnosis of a mental health problem arrives. The time has now come to face the issue and the upcoming changes with peace.

  • Rely on support from professionals: in the diagnostic process of your family member, you will get to know many healthcare professionals. Communication and getting answers to your questions are essential.
  • Follow the guidelines: If your family member gets better, cheer them on to continue with the process. Don’t let them drop the idea of keeping tabs on their disease. You will always find a professional that will ease your worries and doubts. Someone that you can go to if you need help or have any questions. The road is long, but you must not falter.
  • Change your dialogue: If you internalize the idea that your loved one is not a “sick person” but that “he has a disease” or a mental health problem, that may help. Maybe this way you will stop seeing him as the symptoms he has. Additionally, you’ll be able to focus on the person you know.

The family is undoubtedly a fundamental element of stability and recovery. Thus, maintaining a calm environment at home and in their surroundings will directly help the success of the treatment and therapy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.