Family support for mental health recovery

The APA definition of family is a kinship unity consisting of a group of individuals united by blood or by marital, adoptive, or other intimate ties. Although the family is the fundamental social unit of most human societies, its form and structure vary widely.

Dealing with a family member who has a mental health issue can be difficult and undiscerning. However, families can play an important role in identifying the cues by observing the changes in their loved one’s mental health. For example, changes in behavior, mood swings, attitude, social withdrawal, talking or cracking jokes about death, and changes in sleep and eating habits. Noting the early warning signs can be beneficial to seek the necessary help that is required.

Families can be viewed in two extremes. Some families are very distant, while others are close to each other. Family relationships can be damaged or strained when one individual is diagnosed with a mental health issue. It is essential for family members to be patient and understanding in these circumstances. In many situations, family and mental health can go hand in hand. Research studies have shown that the majority of clients reported that their families were the major source of strength and support in the process of recovery. But when family is broken, distant, or dysfunctional, it can lead to mental health issues or worsen the mental health issues.

Awareness and psychoeducation

Many times, families find it difficult to understand mental health disorders or why there are sudden behavioral changes. This misunderstanding can lead to conflicts and disagreements which can cause more frustration for the person suffering from mental health issue. In order to help the person with a mental health issue, first of all, the families should educate themselves about mental disorders, interventions, and different ways to support the person.

In my counseling setting, the author has seen many parents expect the problem to be resolved in one or two counseling sessions, which is unrealistic as it takes time to explore and treat the issue. Some parents expect an immediate cure for mental health disorders without knowing that mental disorders are treatable and not curable. So it is essential for family members to be patient. In some circumstances, the individual with a mental health issue wouldn’t prefer talking about their problems or being willing to seek help or go for therapy or counseling. In these situations, it is important to be empathetic and not force them or push them out of their zone. You can showcase your empathy and concern and assure them that you will be there for them in times of need.

Mending Family Relationships

There is no picture of a perfect family. Every family has some dysfunction, and in some situations, families can become the main reason for the mental health issue. Therapy and counseling settings can save space to mend the relationship and make family members understand the individual with the mental health problem. Role-playing techniques can be effectively used to understand each other’s perspectives. Counseling and therapy can mend broken, distorted family relationships.

Acknowledgement and Words of Encouragement

Many children constantly seek their parents approval and attention. When they don’t receive enough validation from their family, they feel isolated and vulnerable and try to withdraw from the family settings. Families should showcase their acceptance and approval in different ways, like reassuring and encouraging them to make them feel secure and significant in the family, which can enhance their mental health.


In delicate situations like substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, self-harm behavior, or other diagnosed mental disorders, it is important for families to keep an eye on them. While the family should give them their own space, having regular checks on them can help them track and prevent any misfortune from happening.

Don’ts in helping a family member with mental health issue
Dos Don’ts
Be respectful and patient with them. Don’t make jokes about their symptoms or suffering.
Be mindful of your words and tone while talking with them. Avoid yelling and screaming at them, or say, “Just get over it” or “Get a life”.
Be empathetic Don’t generalize their problem.
Assure and validate their emotions. Don’t discard their emotions
Explain your concern and give them enough time to decide for themselves. Don’t force them or decide for them.
Genuinely encourage every ups and downs they face in the recovery process. Don’t criticize
Keep an eye on them and show respect when they ask for space. Don’t barge into them all the time.
Work along with them to create short-term goals. Don’t work without them.
Encourage and appreciate their individuality Never compare them with others.


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If you need help, Ananth Jeevan is here.

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