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Familial Support during a mental health crisis

familial support during a mental health crisisEnduring the symptoms related to mental illness or experiencing a mental decompensation can be extremely terrifying and confusing. Fear and other negative feelings can be true for both those diagnosed as well as the family that loves them. Often when persons with a mental illness begin to experience early onset symptoms related to the disorder, fear, confusion, sadness, and anxiety serves as one of the many contributing factors for self-isolating, self-medicating, extreme sadness, feelings of hopelessness/helplessness, despair, etc. It is not uncommon for a newly diagnosed person to become confused as well as angry about their diagnosis. In fact, some people with a recent diagnosis will hide the diagnosis out of fear, embarrassment, and shame from those closest because of the on-going stigma and They may believe they do not need help. They might push away family and friends. As a person living with a chronic mental illness, I can tell you that isolation often results from fear. Mental illness carries stigma and it is frightening. Previous studies have confirmed the vast benefits of individual recovery from mental health decompensation when there is consistent and reliable family support for those suffering.

The process of recovering from mental illness is confusing and frightening as the sufferer and the family struggle to understand why this is happening, what is causing symptom re-emergence, what are the treatment options, how to manage the symptoms, and what could be done as a family to overcome this challenging situation. It is important for those experiencing mental health challenges to have the love and support of those closest to them during the recovery process. Many times when the individual sufferer experiences mental health symptoms that are confusing and disturbing they begin to think they will never get better, particularly for those with a new or recent diagnosis. For those suffering from mental illness, having familial and peer support can aid in reducing the number of mental health crisis, psychiatric hospitalizations, and escalation of symptoms.

Frustration and fear often mounts for both the suffer as well as family and friends when there is uncertainty surrounding why the symptomatic family member is behaving in a manner that presents as aggressive, unhealthy, bizarre, etc. For many people just receiving a diagnosis or a name for what is occurring with the person of concern can be invaluable. Typically, once an illness has been identified, education and treatment options can then be located.

While the symptoms of serious mental illnesses vary, and interestingly enough a lot of the serious illness may even share some of the same symptoms the most common signs of a serious mental health concern include:

  • Social withdrawal/ Social isolation
  • Challenges with memory or cognition
  • Marked changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Mood changes
  • Disconnect from reality
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations
  • Noticeable changes in external appearance/hygiene
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

It is important for individual suffers and family members to join support groups in addition to individual and family therapy. Support groups can help individuals and families cope with the illness, recognize they are not alone as support groups can bring people together facing similar issues. Groups can bring people together based solely on the illness, relationship problems, or significant life changes. Joining a support group allows members to share experiences and advice. Members It can be helpful just getting to talk with other people who are in the same situation.

Deegan, P. E. & Drake, R. E. (2006). Share Decision Making & Medication Management in the   Recovery Process. Psychiatric Services, 57(11): 1636-1639.

Sledge et al. (2011). Effectiveness of Peer Support in Reducing Readmissions of Persons with Multiple Psychiatric Hospitalizations. Psychiatr Services, 62, 541-4. Doi:10.1176/


Familial Support during a mental health crisis

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2016). Familial Support during a mental health crisis. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Jun 2016
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