top of page
  • Think Happy Live Healthy

Understanding the Impact: How to Support Family Members of Individuals with Mental Health Issues

If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health concerns it is just as important for loved ones to seek help.
Unsplash image

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), in the United States, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience significant mental illness each year. Additionally, NAMI reports that 17% of youth, ages 6 through 17, experience a mental health disorder. These numbers are significant and show us that many youth and adults are affected by mental illness. When taken a step further, we can also extrapolate from this data that many family units are impacted. In reality, having a family member with a mental health condition can be challenging to navigate whether that individual is a child or an adult. There are many variations of how this can look in families and each relationship is not necessarily impacted the same way. Instead of focusing on these variations, we wanted to shine a light on the topic of how family members need support, too. 

What is key to consider is that while parents/siblings/spouses/children or other relatives are working to help support the family member(s) impacted by mental illness, it is equally important that they receive support themselves. Before a plane takes off, many of us are all too familiar with hearing that phrase from the flight attendant that indicates to “put on your own mask first before assisting others” in case of an emergency. Often we have heard these words so many times that there could be the tendency to tune out and think about something else. We may even take for granted the message that is being communicated to us. When we are supporting our loved ones' mental health, it can be difficult to apply this important concept to ourselves. What happens far too often is that continuously giving to others and not taking care of ourselves can lead to compassion fatigue. If you are interested in reading more about compassion fatigue and ways to combat it, take a look at our previous blog.

While there is not a one size fits all approach for helping to support family members, there are strategies that can be useful and applied to individual situations. Here are three ideas to start off:

Re-evaluate your boundaries. Take some time to reflect on how you are spending your time supporting your loved ones with mental illness. Do you feel your current approach is working, and if not, what are you having difficulty with? Trying to be as specific as possible can help you identify areas of concern or patterns of behavior that you may want to change. Taking time to journal about this can be a useful tool.  Are you trying to set boundaries and are finding it hard to stick to these due to your own behaviors or those of other family members?  Thinking through questions such as these can assist you with opening up the door for having these potentially difficult conversations with family to begin working to make change.  

Focus on what you can control.  Are you finding yourself worrying constantly? If so, examining whether what you are worrying about is within your control or not can be very useful. One way to help you do this is by considering your unique situation and completing an exercise that looks at if what you are worrying about falls in the circle of concern (what is outside your control), circle of influence (what you can influence), and circle of control (what you can control). For more information on this topic, you can check out the following link, and here is an example of a worksheet that you can use to complete this activity. 

Reach out for support. At THLH, we wholeheartedly believe in the idea of “it takes a village” to help support one another’s mental health journey. It is important for parents to seek therapy as well as siblings and other relatives of loved ones with mental illness so that every family member can receive their own support. Family therapy may also be beneficial to help navigate challenging family dynamics and strengthen relationships. In addition to therapy, support groups are available to families. For more information, check out NAMI’s website. Parents need time for themselves too and we have included information about “parents night out” local events, with activities located near our Falls Church office and opportunities close by to our Ashburn office.

As always, we continue to work diligently to find ways to support you and your family. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us or call us at 703-942-9745. 

53 views0 comments


bottom of page