What is the Impact of Mental Health Struggle On Families?

Do you have a family member struggling with their personal mental health? Are you, yourself, struggling? I understand it isn’t easy dealing with this. However, it also has an impact on everyone in the family – including parents and children who love and care for one another.

Carrie Fisher, a well-known actress on Star Wars and writer, talked about her struggles with bipolar disorder. In her book “Wishful Drinking (2008)”, she discusses how her illness affected her family in a very personal and relatable way. She mentioned that many people feel ashamed and do not understand mental illness, making it difficult to seek help.

As for our family, it wasn’t until my husband was 30 that he finally decided to go to the doctor. Before being diagnosed, he felt helpless and in constant state of frustration from having ADHD. Even until now that he knows what he’s dealing with, we’re still in the trenches clawing our way through to the right management and ways of coping.

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Here, I’ve listed how mental health issues can affect the other members of the family:

How Does Mental Health Issues Affect Other Family Members?

1. Financial Burden

Getting mental health treatment can be expensive and not affordable for many families. It has been what kept us from seeking help. It isn’t usually covered in insurance policies and we were not financially capable because of our limited income. In the Philippines, the cost estimates at $200/month for once a month session and daily medications. Even that much is already a lot for lower middle class families such as ours.

The additional expenses can lead to financial stress and strain for the whole family. Some families may even need to spend less on other important things like food and rent, just to pay for treatment or therapy. In more serious cases, families may have to borrow money or go into debt.

2. Emotional Toll

Watching a loved one struggle with mental health can be emotionally exhausting for family members. Having helped my husband through his depression and anxiety for years, I know that you may feel powerless, frustrated, and overwhelmed by the situation. You might also experience feelings of guilt or shame, thinking that you should have done more to help your loved one.

The emotional strain of mental health issues can be difficult to cope with and can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems for you too.

Honestly, there were times that I felt very lonely being the one who feels like I’m the one who’s always supporting and giving and helping. Always trying to understand can be difficult.

3. Changes in Family Dynamics

Mental health problems can really affect families a lot, especially when a parent or child is going through them. These problems can change the whole family and how they talk and act around each other.

  • When a parent is depressed, it can be difficult for them to show love or engage in activities with their children. This can create a sense of distance within the family and make it feel less close.
  • The family might also have trouble talking to each other, which can cause arguments and confusion.
  • Kids might feel ignored and if they’re young, they might not understand what’s going on.
  • They might feel scared, alone, or like it’s their fault that their parent or sibling is having mental health problems.
  • Sometimes, the kids end up taking care of their parent or sibling. This can make them feel even more worried and stressed.

Dealing with changes in family relationships can be tough, and it’s common to feel stressed and worried. Just know that mental health issues can have a big impact on families, so it’s important to take them seriously.

4. Increased Responsibility

When a child, spouse, or sibling is struggling with mental health issues, it can be challenging for the whole family. Other family members may need to take on additional responsibilities to provide support and care for their loved one. This can include attending therapy sessions, administering medication, or providing emotional support. It is important for family members to communicate openly and work together to ensure that everyone’s needs are met during this difficult time.

  • Sometimes, the child has to take care of their mom or dad, or a parent has to do more things at home, like cooking, cleaning, and taking care of other brothers and sisters. These things can make the caregiver feel very tired and stressed, because they also have to take care of themselves.
  • Family members may also need to ensure that the person with the mental health issue takes their medication on time and keep an eye out for any side effects.
  • Family members might also need to go to appointments with the person or help them keep track of their schedule by talking to the doctors, going to appointments, and figuring out what insurance will pay for.
  • Caregivers might also help their loved one feel better by making sure they take their medicine on time, being there for them emotionally, and helping them with things they need to do every day.
  • Caregivers might need to find groups that can help them take a break sometimes, so they can take care of themselves too.
  • Taking care of a loved one while also taking care of yourself and other family members can be challenging. It’s important to have open communication with everyone in the family to ensure that everyone’s needs are met. Remember to prioritize your own self-care too!
  • Caregivers may also need to help the person they are caring for when they have problems, like when they get very upset or angry. They may also need to talk to the doctors to figure out how to give the best help.

Taking on more responsibility can be tough, and handling it can feel like too much. These extra tasks demand a lot of time and can cause stress, which can be tough for family members who are already dealing with a lot.

5. Stigma

As Carrie Fisher pointed out, there is still a lot of shame and negative attitudes around mental health issues, even with the rising mental health awareness. This can make people feel isolated and embarrassed, not only the person experiencing the issue but also their loved ones.

The stigma surrounding mental health also makes it difficult for families to seek help and support, as they fear being judged or discriminated against. It is essential to address this stigma so that families can receive the help and support they need without feeling ashamed or judged.

Recognition is Just the Beginning

It is essential to recognize the impact that mental health issues can have on families and to seek help when needed. There are resources available to families, such as support groups, therapy, and medication. By working together and seeking help, families can navigate the challenges of mental health issues and emerge stronger on the other side.

Read more: How to Navigate Through Maternal Mental Health

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