Family Mental Health and Well-Being
Family mental health is an important part of overall well-being. It affects how you interact with others, your ability to deal with stress and how you handle emotions such as anger, resentment and depression.
Several factors can affect family mental health, including poverty, exposure to violence and a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These experiences can increase the risk of mental health problems, injury, substance abuse, chronic disease and lack of employment or education opportunities.
Siblings often experience a range of complex emotions when a sibling has a mental health problem. They may feel resentful towards their ill brother or sister, blame themselves for not being empathetic enough and grow increasingly detached (Sin et al., 2012).
In addition to the emotional impacts of having a sibling with mental health issues, siblings can also face additional responsibilities within their family unit that they didn’t previously have. They may become responsible for helping to care for their sick sibling, managing financial and medical costs or handling household chores.
They may need to learn how to be a supportive adult in their family and may need extra time with parents to cope.
Rethink Mental Illness undertook a survey of siblings affected by mental illness in 2006 and found that there was a gap in information and support for these siblings. In response, the Sibling Network has set up a website and a discussion forum for mental health professionals to engage with siblings in order to support them.
Spouses play key roles in helping a person with mental health symptoms determine whether care is necessary and encouraging one another to seek it. How they help varies by gender and also by the type of illness.
While research on heterosexual couples has focused on how spouses monitor, promote, and encourage medical engagement in response to physical health conditions (Chen, Waite, and Lauderdale 2015; Kiecolt-Glazer and Newton 2001), similar spousal interventions likely occur for mental health symptoms.
Men and women may be equally or less attuned to their spouse’s mental health and work to alleviate mental health concerns within the home, thereby reducing depressive symptoms and relationship strain (Sharabi, Delaney, and Knobloch 2016; Thomeer, Reczek, and Umberson 2015b).
How spouses encourage one another to seek care may also differ by gender due to long-standing and pervasive gendered social scripts that shape marital interactions around both marriage and mental health. For example, women are often cast as emotional experts and innate nurturers, whereas men are usually cast as emotionally self-sufficient and unskilled at understanding emotions (Moon 2014; Rothblum 2009).
Children’s mental health is a crucial part of their overall well-being. It affects how they reach developmental milestones, learn healthy social skills, develop sound family and peer relationships, build a sense of identity and positive self-esteem, and develop resilience and coping skills.
It also influences how they respond to stress and trauma in their lives, and how they relate to others and understand themselves. Problems with mental health in childhood can have lifelong impacts on a child’s ability to achieve their potential and lead a full, productive and happy life.
Mental disorders among children include a wide range of serious problems in thought, behavior, mood, and relationship with others. They may occur alone or in combination with other conditions, such as learning disabilities, substance abuse or eating disorders.
Friends are an important source of support for someone with a mental health condition. They can also be helpful in getting a loved one into treatment when it’s time to seek professional help.
If you’re a friend with a loved one who has a mental illness, check out NAMI Family & Friends, a free 90-minute or four-hour seminar designed to educate you about the most effective ways to support a loved one with a mental health problem. It’s led by trained people with lived experience of supporting someone who has a mental health condition.
Listening is key, but don’t let your friend’s problems dominate your conversation. Instead, make sure to talk about things that aren’t directly related to their mental health, like your own hobbies and interests. This will help keep the focus on your relationship and give your friend a chance to open up to you. Likewise, don’t be afraid to change the subject or take a break if it’s necessary.