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When Multiple Family Members Have A Mental Illness

In our home right now, including myself there are four family members that have a mental illness. As it stands right now, we have Aspergers, ADHD, and three of us with bipolar 1 disorder. My Hubs diagnosis is subject to change though and I believe in the future he will be dealing with a different diagnosis.

When dealing or coping with a large family where mental illness has taken over it can be hard to keep things moving smoothly. I have blogged about my personal experience with this here on my own blog. It can be difficult to keep things running like a “normal” household. I think this is the case in all families when one or more family members get sick and I don’t just mean with a mental illness.

The first thing we must do is accept that fact that mental illness is running in our family. We have to come to terms with the fact that other people in our home are suffering and trying to cope as well. It can be extremely difficult to be the patient and the carer at the same time.

We must be sure that we are caring for ourselves first and then worrying about taking care of other family members, even if those family members are children. I am in charge of giving out everyone’s meds. This is to ensure that everyone takes their meds at the same time every day and we keep the level of medication consistent in our bodies. By doing this, I also make sure I am keeping the level consistent in my own brain because I take my meds first, then I call to the next person and the next.

Case management services and family based counseling is an absolute must when you are dealing with multiple people who have a mental illness at home. These services can help you learn how to manage your family more effectively and keep things running smoother. They can also put you in touch with other services in your area that you weren’t aware of to get some extra support and help.

Pick your battles. If everyone is symptomatic it’s important to know which battles are worth the fight. If someone left the seat up in the bathroom, that may not be as important as if someone is sleeping the day away and letting others pull the entire load of the household on their own. Everyone must pitch in and do their part of keeping the household running smoothly. This is where family based counseling can come in handy. They can help everyone understand the role they play within the family unit.

Realize you aren’t the only one suffering and then forgive your family members for something they can’t control. There’s no use going around blaming everyone for their mental illness. This causes stigma and can make a wonderful family fall apart. Try your hardest to be understanding and see if there is anything you can do to make life easier for everyone, including yourself. This doesn’t mean being stable all the time, it just means, that if you take over doing dishes, it may help everyone else see that if they took over one thing, it would make the house run a little smoother.

Don’t hold onto negative feelings. Let it go, don’t let it rent space in your head for free. If someone isn’t pulling their weight and helping out. Calmly bring it up to them. They may be having a difficult time and they may need some intervention. You can’t just assume everything is okay when you have a family with multiple mental illness diagnoses. Try your best to be supportive and understanding, especially if your children are the ones that have been diagnosed.

I hope I have provided you with some information to help get through the tough days. Sometimes we just need to relax and not do anything and that’s okay too. As parents we don’t always have to be on top of our game, things happen, even in families where there is no mental illness. Putting things into perspective and prioritizing everything can help tremendously.

When Multiple Family Members Have A Mental Illness

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on October 16, 2016.

Amy Smith

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APA Reference
Smith, A. (2019). When Multiple Family Members Have A Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 May 2019
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