Q; You have spoken about many mental health issues. Are the families of those suffering from these issues ever impacted?
A: This being mental health awareness week, your question is especially relevant. I have covered many topics of mental illness. But loved ones of those suffering from mental illness endure their own issues that often get ignored.
Everyone in a family is impacted by mental illness. While watching your loved one suffer their illness, it is not uncommon for you to run the gamut of emotions from fear, confusion, loss, guilt and anger. You have worries now that you were not prepared for—some mental illnesses cause erratic and frightening behaviour; some cause financial problems after job loss.
When it is your partner that is ill, and you have children, you may be left with not only the childcare but dealing with children who do not understand why their other parent is rarely available to them and erratic when they are present. You have lost your partner and your marital intimacy. You frequently cannot go out as a couple but you do not want to tell people why you refuse invitations.
If you are the parent of a child with mental illness, you suffer as you watch your child experience pain, disconnect with reality, or just experience rejection. You suffer social isolation with them. You may feel resentful for the way the child’s behaviours interferes with your plans and future. You may be angry at how your ill child sets a bad example for and challenges your other children.
No matter what the relationship, mental illness affects everyone in a family. Unfortunately, however, family members often do not get the support and counselling that they need and this can lead to their own stress, anxiety and illness. With counselling, you can learn to take care of yourself without guilt, stigma or judgment.