Page: Relationships Counselling – Family & Child Psychology

Mental Health and Families

Mental health and wellbeing is tied up with our sense of self, our families, our communities and the wider society we live in.

The onset of mental illness can have a significant impact on families, increasing divorce rates, child deliquency and suicide – but the mental health and wellbeing of the whole family is not always given the attention it needs.

Most of the mental health literature discusses families in the context of supporting the recovery of the person with the mental illness or their caring roles.There is little that actually speaks to the family as a whole or pays attention to the needs of children and challenges of the parenting task.

The impact of mental illness on families:

  • Everyone in the family will be affected in some way. Shock, grief and a sense of loss are common responses, family members may be  confused and bewildered as they try to make sense of what is going on. Everyone in the family needs good information and support and good opportunities talk together and to learn, express feelings, make adjustments or develop plans to support each other.Read more on how to save your marriage.
  • Family roles and relationships can change. The onset of mental illness may change the way partners, parents and children relate to each other and it may take awhile to make sense of things and to adjust to changing circumstances. These adjustments are managed better if families can talk together about how the mental illness has affected them and plan what they can do together to support each other. Read more
  • Parenting with a mental illness presents a unique set of challenges. Parenting is a difficult task and many people feel inadequate in their role, let alone if they face the challenges of mental illness as well.
  • Children’s needs can be overlooked at this time as adults are preoccupied with the emotional and practical demands of managing with the mental illness. Children are profoundly affected by all that is going on around them. Read more

How mental illness is managed in families will have a major affect on the mental health of the individual, the family and future generations which is why child psychologists need to be involved with family counselling. It is important to know that there are many ways in which workers can support resilience in families. The key message is to ‘talk together’about mental health and mental illness.

Also read more about treatment for alcoholism here as alcohol and drug abuse can be major issues within a relationship and counselling and treatment for alcohol and substance abuse, support through detox and engagement during rehab can be the first step in treating mental health issues which are damaging a relationship.

Child and Family Clinical Psychologist: Rachel Aiello, PhD