Understanding Family In The Context Of Mental Health

Among the most significant things a family can do when they have a member with mental health concerns is to speak openly about it with each other. However, it is also essential they know how to discuss it supportively, without judgment, and with understanding. Many mental health sufferers believe that struggling with these issues is wrong in and of itself. Those with anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions have done nothing wrong and are not failing by having this struggle. Sharing their struggles with supportive family members is the first step towards learning strategies to manage them.

Understanding Family In The Context Of Mental Health

Many mental health sufferers immediately think of their blood relatives when the term family is brought up. The concept of speaking openly and honestly with these relatives can be intimidating for many reasons. In some cases, a member or members of the family may be directly responsible for the struggles they’re facing. In others, there may not be a safe and welcoming atmosphere among their blood relatives.

Thankfully, this is not what the term family means in this context. Your family is made of those who love and support you and who try to understand the nature of your struggles. While blood relations and family can be one and the same, this isn’t the case for many people. For those in this situation, their family of choice, including friends and loved ones, are just as valid and important of a support system. Whatever composition your family of choice takes, that is what we refer to within this article.

The first and perhaps most important part of broaching the subject to your family is knowing when and how to do so:

  • Ongoing Treatment – Many mental health sufferers find it beneficial to have begun therapy before broaching the subject. This provides an important resource, your therapist, in choosing when to make these steps.
  • Acceptance Of Your Condition – Accepting your condition puts you in a good position to speak to others about it. It allows you to discuss your challenges and hear others’ feedback on your experience more clearly.
  • Your Own Comfort – No one is entitled to be involved in your healing process. Those who are invited to share your journey are being given the privilege of being part of your support system. This should be earned through trust, understanding, and the ability to listen.

We all need support when we’re going through hard times. For many mental health sufferers, their history has been fraught with struggling with their condition without the proper tools. Therapy is usually where those tools are gained.

Moving Forward With Communication And Honesty

An essential thing you can do now that you’ve opened lines of communication is to keep at it. Those who have shown an active desire to be involved in your growth and development will be your greatest assets. Communicate your struggles with them while being respectful (by asking) of their own place in life and their boundaries. While managing your mental health is your responsibility, the right support system can help make the struggle easier.

Dr. Aryeh Berlin is a New Jersey licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Aspire Psychological Group. Dr. Berlin has vast clinical training experiences including a residential adolescent addiction treatment center in Israel, community mental health centers, and youth detention centers. Dr. Berlin has lectured on parenting children with emotional and behavioral difficulties, child development, helping children with school-related challenges and trauma. Audiences included attorneys, mental health professionals, parents, and educators.

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