Mental Illness & The Family: Recognizing Warning Signs & How to Cope

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    sad-black-woman-3A mental illness is a disease that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.  There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.  Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

    Read: How To Talk To Children About Gun Violence

    Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events. As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. With proper care and treatment many individuals learn to cope or recover from a mental illness or emotional disorder.

    Here are just a few steps:

    1. Accept Your Feelings Despite the different symptoms and types of mental illnesses, many families who have a loved one with mental illness, share similar experiences. You may find yourself denying the warning signs, worrying what other people will think because of the stigma, or wondering what caused your loved one to become ill. Accept that these feelings are normal and common among families going through similar situations.
    2. Seeking Counseling Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members.  A mental health professional can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one’s illness.

    The following are signs that your loved one may want to speak to a medical or mental health professional.

    In adults:

    • Confused thinking
    • Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)
    • Feelings of extreme highs and lows
    • Excessive fears, worries and anxieties
    • Social withdrawal
    • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
    • Strong feelings of anger
    • Delusions or hallucinations
    • Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
    • Suicidal thoughts
    • Denial of obvious problems
    • Numerous unexplained physical ailments
    • Substance abuse

    Please be sure to read:12 Winter Depression Busters

    In older children and pre-adolescents:

    • Substance abuse
    • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
    • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
    • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
    • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
    • Intense fear of weight gain
    • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
    • Frequent outbursts of anger

    In younger children:

    • Changes in school performance
    • Poor grades despite strong efforts
    • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
    • Hyperactivity
    • Persistent nightmares
    • Persistent disobedience or aggression
    • Frequent temper tantrums

    Make sure to read: Is Having A Best Friend Healthy For Your Child?

    If you need help please reach out to any of the contacts below:

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administraton (SAMHSA)
    Phone 800-789-2647

    National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)
    Phone 800-950-6264

    American Psychiatric Association
    Phone 888-357-7924

    Phone 888-357-7924

    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

    Phone 202-966-7300

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