In today’s post, we’re going to look at how mental health impacts can be felt throughout our families—and explore how we can mitigate the fallout.
Table of Contents
The Health of the Family
We understand intuitively that a physical health crisis like the diagnosis of someone with cancer or a chronic illness can radically change the fabric of our families, but we often don’t realize that mental health can have the same kind of impact. When one person in a family struggles, others inevitably feel the effects—changes to one person’s routine create changes in all the rest.
If your family is dealing with a mental health crisis, it’s important to consider some of the following areas:
When children undergo a mental health crisis, it’s particularly hard on parents. Intense feelings of shame, guilt, and frustration are natural. Those feelings go hand in hand with uncertainty and helplessness. When it’s a caregiver who’s struggling with mental health, it can be frightening for any children to witness and exhausting for their partner who’s left to pick up the slack.
It’s important to communicate openly, practice self-empathy, and help children to feel safe during this time. Because struggles with mental health impact the whole family, it is important for the family to come together during these times—the better to share the strain.
Very often, roles change when there are struggles with mental health. Older siblings may have to take on care of younger siblings, or parents may find it necessary to redistribute household chores. It is important to recognize the limits of what people can do and how much we’re asking of them during times like this. Rather than letting the whole burden fall on the immediate family, consider reaching out to friends & extended family members for support.
Potential for Conflict
During all these changes, there’s a heightened potential for conflict. Family members may struggle with short tempers born of frustration and fear. At other times, they may feel like it’s necessary to bottle up their emotions because they’re worried about exacerbating a loved one’s struggles. It’s critical that families find safe ways to communicate—whether that’s expressing feelings to a third party, working with a family counselor, or creating rules and structure to help them work through their problems as a team.
Managing the Impacts
The strain on the family unit as a result of mental health issues can come from several different angles. Finances may be tight if a caregiver or parent is forced to take time off from work. It can be hard to juggle a career while also navigating a child’s serious mental health crisis. Sometimes, people may feel like they’re walking on eggshells, uncertain of the future.
Families need to counteract that uncertainty as best they can. Creating a routine and maintaining traditions can help keep the family unit grounded. Scheduling trips or fun plans for the future can give everyone something to look forward to.
Most importantly, fostering an environment of love and acceptance is important. Recognize that you are all in this together. Good teams solve problems together rather than pointing fingers and holding grudges.
Schedule a Consultation
If your family is struggling to navigate the impacts of a mental health crisis, reach out today. We specialize in a number of therapies that can help families learn to communicate and work together. Our most important work as therapists is helping families create strong, resilient bonds and a safe emotional environment. Reach out to us to learn more about family therapy.