Home is Where The Health Is: A Family’s Guide to Mental Health

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Have you ever heard the saying, “Home is where the heart is”? Well, it might be just as accurate to say, “Home is where the health is,” especially when it comes to mental health. How many times do we pause to consider the crucial effect that our familial relationships have on our mental state? “How you treat your loved one has a big impact on their well-being.” Family holds a central place in the mental health support network, providing essential encouragement and a secure base in turbulent times.

What is the role of family in our mental health?

Our families, in all their unique forms and dynamics, are integral to our mental well-being. They are our first point of contact with the world and play a significant role in shaping our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Studies underscore the influence of social ties, especially family relationships, on our mental health. Positive relationships can bolster our mental resilience, while strained connections might do just the opposite 1. The family systems theory illuminates this interconnectedness, suggesting that a shift in one member’s mental state can reverberate throughout the entire family unit.

Understanding mental health can be very challenging, especially for families trying to help their loved ones. It is important to notice and address mental health problems early on. Here is the essential information to identify the key symptoms to watch for, ensuring that help is sought at the right time to potentially alter the course of mental health disorders and provide the support and care that your loved ones truly deserve.

  • Adults, Young Adults, and Adolescents:
    • Confusion: A drop in work performance.
    • Mood Swings: Dramatic emotional highs and lows.
    • Social Withdrawal: Limited social interactions.
    • Sleep & Diet: Shifts in sleep and eating habits.
    • Stress Intolerance: Quick to agitation.
    • Red Flags: Experiencing delusions or suicidal thoughts. Seek immediate help.
  • Older Children and Preadolescents:
    • Daily Activities: Struggling with home and school tasks.
    • Defiance: Opposing parental authority.
    • Sleep & Diet: Changes in habits and complaints of physical issues.
    • Emotions: Intense fear or anger.
    • Red Flags: Suicidal ideation. Seek immediate professional advice.
  • Young Children:
    • School Performance: Declining grades despite effort.
    • Sleep & Diet: Shifts in sleep and eating routines.
    • Anxiety: Constant worrying or nightmares.
    • Behavior: Hyperactivity or frequent outbursts.
    • Social Behavior: Avoiding once-loved activities.

How can we help a loved one who is experiencing mental health issues?

When someone close to us is struggling with mental health problems, it can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of in how to provide the necessary support. However, there are clear and actionable steps that can be taken to have a beneficial impact. Below, we will delve into eight vital strategies that can guide us in providing essential support and empathy to our loved ones, aiding them through their mental health challenges.

1. Initiate the Conversation

Starting a conversation about mental health can be daunting, but it’s a crucial first step. Offer a listening ear, validate their feelings, and reassure them of your unwavering support. Remember, patience is key, and if they’re not ready to talk, that’s okay too. Encouraging phrases like “I’ve noticed you’ve been going through a tough time, how can I help?” can make all the difference.

2. Educate Yourself

Knowledge is power. Familiarize yourself with your loved one’s mental health condition to better understand and support them. Dr. Lefley highlights the transformative impact of family education on both the patient’s well-being and the overall family dynamic 2.

3. Navigate Guilt and Shame

Feelings of guilt and shame are common among family members, but it’s crucial to remember that mental health is influenced by a myriad of factors, including biological, psychological, and social elements. Families play a vital role, but they are not the sole factor.

4. Empower Your Loved One

Empowerment and respect are key. Allow your loved one to make decisions, fostering their sense of control and self-esteem. Your support can contribute significantly to their journey towards empowerment and recovery.

5. Maintain Calm and Hope

Your demeanor and attitude can significantly impact your loved one. Responding with patience, understanding, and hope is crucial. Recovery is possible, and your unwavering belief in their ability to heal is invaluable.

6. Establish Equality

Treat your loved one as an equal member of the family, setting consistent expectations and boundaries for all. This approach fosters a sense of belonging and normalcy.

7. Set Realistic Expectations and Collaborate

Understand that recovery is a journey with potential ups and downs. Collaborate with your loved one’s treatment team, offering your support every step of the way. Your involvement, even when it seems unnoticed, is essential.

8. Seek Support for Yourself

Caring for a loved one can take its toll on you too. Don’t hesitate to seek support for yourself, recognizing your limits and ensuring that you are in the best position to offer help.

For those keen on delving deeper into the complex dynamics of family and mental health, and how to navigate these waters when a loved one is in need, there’s a treasure trove of knowledge and resources at your fingertips. Embark on this journey with us and explore the pivotal role of family in one’s mental well-being. For more tools and resources, consider downloading the Mind You app or visiting www.mindyou.com.ph/public.

1 Smith, K. P., & Christakis, N. A. (2016). Social Networks and Health. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 405-429.

2 Lefley, H. P. (2018). Family Caregiving in Mental Illness. Sage Publications.

If your organization is interested in availing of mental healthcare support, reach us at letstalk@mindyou.com.ph or visit www.mindyou.com.ph.

If you are an individual looking to book therapy sessions, visit www.mindyou.com.ph/public for more details.