Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mental Illness and Families


Mental Illness is a reality that affects many families. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) one in five families in the U.S. includes someone who has a serious mental illness. Therefore, it is something worth talking about.


What is mental health? The American Psychological Association (APA) defines mental illness as a disorder affecting the brain that cause mild to severe impairment or disturbances in thinking, feeling, perception and behavior.

Some of the burdens of mental illness include the following:
  • Loss of career opportunities
  • Self-blame for the illness
  • Social stigma for seeking treatment
  • Family members blame selves for illness as well as inability to relieve suffering
  • Societal myths and misunderstandings about mental illness
  • Family members ability or lack thereof to display an appropriate expression of emotions in a given situation
These are some of the struggles that people with mental illness and their families experience. How can relief be found for families and individuals?
  • Educating family members about appropriate emotional expression and how to achieve that in various situations. For example, being supportive and understanding rather than hostile and angry when your child who has Autism gets into a raging fit when wearing a seatbelt because the texture of the seatbelt bothers your child.
  • Relief is often found through a combination of therapy, pharmaceutics, and often times, spirituality
  • Family members also play an important role as a support system in recovery and resilience
Mental illness is a reality for many individuals and families. The important thing to remember is that as families work together they can be a great source of support and encouragement for individual members of the family.


The information in this post primarily came from the National Alliance on Mental Health and the National Institute of Mental Health

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