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Managing your family's mental health

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

As you may have no doubt noticed, COVID-19 has caused mental health issues for people all over the globe.

Around 45% of people experience a mental health condition at some point in their life. So if you're not affected yourself, it's likely you will find yourself supporting a loved one or someone close to you.

Signs of mental decline are often different for people and you may pick up on specific characteristics depending on who the person is.

Generally speaking, signs of mental illnesses include:

  • Mood swings

  • Unusual sleep patterns

  • Avoiding friends and family

  • Avoiding school or work

  • Disinterest in things that usually bring them joy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Excessive fears or feelings of guilt

  • Consistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness

  • Drastic changes in eating habits

How to approach the question of mental illness

Initiating a conversation with different people in your family can go a number of ways.

It is important that the conversation happens when everyone feels safe and comfortable and there are no distractions - such as over dinner, before bed or driving in the car.

It is also important to ensure your loved one is comfortable talking to you; asking if they would prefer to talk to a sibling, your partner or another trusted figure is an easy way to build rapport.

A great way to start the conversation can be by starting to talk about your own mental health.

By sharing your emotional experiences and how you manage your own mental health, you are modelling positive sharing behaviour.

This can encourage other people in your family to come forward and talk about their experiences.

Learning about your loved one's mental state or some of the symptoms they’re experiencing can also help the flow of the conversation.

For example, “I’ve noticed that you aren’t as excited to go to soccer practice lately, is there something on your mind?”

Being supportive is key

Another important aspect of talking about mental health with a loved one is respecting and validating their experiences, even if you may not fully understand it.

For your children, try not to compare them to their siblings or friends.

Similarly for your partner, try not to compare them to their friends or even a past version of themselves.

Mental health is constantly evolving and showing your support is the most important thing to come out of this conversation.

Look after you too

To ensure your entire family is looked after in these situations, it's important for you to look after yourself first.

You cannot pour from an empty cup. Reminding yourself aspects of the situation are out of your control and that there is no “right” way to feel can help alleviate stress.

Creating boundaries and encouraging your loved one to seek outside support can also take the burden off your shoulders.

Family or couples therapy is a great way to make your family members feel supported and create a sense of unity.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to reach out to a GP or another trusted figure for your own advice.

If you have immediate concerns for yours or somebody else’s safety please call 000 (emergency services) or Lifeline at 13 11 14. The world is better with you in it.

If you would like more information on how to identify and manage mental health issues in your family, have a read of our "Managing your Family's Mental Health" Module available below.

Managing your Family's Mental Health Mod
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