The Toll of Mental Health Conditions on Families and How to Get Support
The season for family gatherings is approaching. While we’re apt to discuss our jobs, kids, school, and the weather—perhaps even the tricky waters of politics—what we often don’t discuss is mental health conditions that can affect our families. It may be surprising to you, but 1 out of 4 families has a family member with a mental health condition (World Health Organization Report, 2001). Isolation is common for the individual and the family, often out of fear of negative judgments and social stigma.
Mental health struggles including depression, anxiety, or substance abuse have very real consequences. The ones who share the challenges of these conditions are the loved ones who care for the individuals. The emotional toll on a caregiver deserves acknowledgement and support, especially when that person is a spouse, partner, or parent. Spend some time on these tips to help support caregivers:
- Learn about mental health conditions and treatments. The more you learn, the more encouraged you may be. Conditions such as depression, panic, agoraphobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which can become so disabling that the sufferer can’t keep up with their responsibilities at home or at work, can be treated. Specific therapies and/or medications exist that have been proven to help. Check out MentalHealth.gov and Psychology Works for information about mental health conditions and treatments.
- Talk about it with the family member. Not sure what to say? MentalHealth.gov gives suggestions about how to start a conversation with the family member who has your concern.
- Join a support group. The Rochester Mental Health Association and National Alliance for the Mentally Ill websites can direct you to groups in your area.
- Share your experiences and concerns with a trusted friend. Chances are he or she is dealing with some of the same concerns.
- Seek help for yourself. If a family situation is beginning to affect your mood or day-to-day function, reach out to a mental health professional. The Strong Employee Assistance Program’s counselors can evaluate mental health needs and make referrals. Behavioral Health Partners has providers who offer evaluations, psychotherapy, and medication therapies for eligible* employees, spouses, domestic partners, and dependents age 18-26.
- Encourage your loved one to get professional help. If your family member is reluctant to talk with a mental health professional, suggest starting with his or her primary care provider.
For more information, contact:
*Those eligible for Behavioral Health Partners include:
Regular full-time and part-time faculty and staff and spouses or domestic partners enrolled in a University health care plan and their covered dependents 18 or older*
Non-Medicare-eligible retirees and spouses or domestic partners enrolled in a University health care plan and their covered dependents 18 or older*
*YOUR HSA-Eligible Plan: Services received through BHP are subject to the annual deductible and are covered by the Plan at 100% after the annual deductible is met.
The Strong Employee Assistance program is available to all University employees and their household members.
Steven P Brown |