Families with Mental Illness Need Support Groups
If you belong to a family with mental illness, you need a support group. Between the genetic factors of mental illness and their coexisting conditions and effects (addiction, codependency, criminal activity, divorce, abuse, and more), families with mental illness need a place to sort it all out with people who share their experiences. Different from one-on-one therapy or chatting with a friend, you can find strength, validation, and belonging in a support group for families with mental illness.
Families with Mental Illness Find a Safe Place in Support Groups
In a family with mental illness, many pressing issues can surface on a regular basis. Multiple family members, due to the hereditary nature of mental illness, may be experiencing different mental illnesses at the same time. There always seems to be a new issue, a new drama, a new problem to solve or recover from. But, it is difficult to find appropriate places to discuss these issues (With Mental Illness in the Family, You Don't Get Lasagna).
Hashing out the details of your bipolar aunt’s drunken escapades at the last family holiday is not usually acceptable conversation for girl’s night out. Even though families with mental illness can experience distressing situations that need to be addressed, there are not many appropriate venues to discuss these situations openly. It is difficult for those of us inside of these families to separate things out while trying not to air our dirty laundry to those who cannot understand (What to Do When a Family Member Gets a Mental Illness).
I've struggled for years trying to figure out what details of my family life I should share with whom. As I have grown healthier, the friends that I choose are healthy, too. But they don't come from families with mental illness, and they struggle to understand the dynamics of my family with mental illness. They grow tired of the same dramas affecting me, time and again. And I grow tired of feeling like I have nowhere to talk about these very important details of my life (Value of Support Groups for Mental Illness).
When Families with Mental Illness Find Support Groups, They Can Overcome Shame
Recently, my husband and I volunteered to lead a Mental Illness in the Family support group at our church. We wondered if we were the right people to lead a group like this because we still have so many issues in our own family. We wondered if we could even offer support or help to other families when our family can be downright messy (When Your Family Is Messy and It's Hard to Give Thanks).
On the first night of group, as the lovely people around me began to share their stories openly and honestly, I realized something: I had nothing to be ashamed of. Other families with mental illness look just like mine. These families are filled with good people who are trying, but who are sick. They are dealing with grief and brokenness, medication management, tight budgets, and disability. They are often caught between getting well for the sake of their own children and relating with unwell family members.
As I sat there that first night, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders. I began to feel less ashamed and more understood. I began to feel like I didn’t need to hide the dysfunction in my family any more than I would hide the diabetes or cancer that runs through my husband’s family.
When Families with Mental Illness Find Support Groups, They Can Find Healing
If families with mental illness can get together and share their experiences, maybe the shame we feel will dissipate. Maybe we can begin to address mental illnesses with full hearts of hope instead of broken hearts of shame. Maybe finding hope is enough to turn the tide for the next generation we pass these genetics on to.
So, if you want to change the way you feel about the embarrassing pieces of your family’s history, find a support group. Find people who share your history and your experiences. Find people who can help you see that mental illness in your family is nothing to be ashamed of. Find a support group, and you may be able to let go of the shame you've been holding onto and view the mental illness in your family in a softer light.
Arthur, T. (2016, April 13). Families with Mental Illness Need Support Groups, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, February 27 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalillnessinthefamily/2016/04/why-families-with-mental-illness-need-support-groups
Author: Taylor Arthur
Absolutely, we need support too. I lead a faith based group in Chino, CA called Circles of Hope and run a closed Facebook group called Embracing Faith & Mental Illness from a Caregiver's Perspective. We would love to invite anyone that is interested.