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Mental Illness in the Family

Nicola Spendlove
The partnership between families and mental health professionals is often a key component of adequately supporting a loved one with mental illness. I see this every day in my working life as an occupational therapist -- when there's no buy-in from the family, chances of an intervention being successful are dramatically reduced. When my brother developed chronic anxiety and depression seven years ago, I had to practice what I preach and actively foster a good relationship with his medical team. Here are some points about that experience that I wanted to share.
Alixzandria Paige
It can be difficult to watch a loved one's mental health deteriorate when they struggle with the prescribed medication they need. It is also confusing when a family member chooses not to take their prescribed medication even when they know it will help them. In this article, I wanted to reach out to my family to understand their point of view when they do this.
Nicola Spendlove
In January, wellness culture tends to be more prominent than ever -- it seems as if the whole world becomes intent on creating a healthier, more productive version of themselves. For those with mental illness, this narrative can be damaging. My brother, who has chronic anxiety and depression, has often spoken about how wellness culture can leave him feeling frustrated and inadequate.
Alixzandria Paige
I get exhausted from interacting with my friends and family due to my social anxiety, even though I love them. I find it very difficult to interact with people for a long time. This extends as far as to be exhausted by texting. However, my family has learned how to handle my social anxiety in a way that benefits all of us.
Nicola Spendlove
It's always important to be mindful of mentally ill loved ones, but it's especially important around the holidays when routines change, and symptoms can intensify as a result. I've noticed in the past that my brother (who has chronic mental health issues) can particularly struggle at Christmas time. This year, I'm hosting a family Christmas day gathering for the first time -- here are some of the steps I'm taking to make my brother's mental health a priority during the celebrations.
Alixzandria Paige
Being a role model is already difficult enough, but when you're trying to set a good example for your younger siblings when you're depressed, it can seem impossible. Though it wasn't easy, I fought the depression at every turn and was able to come out of the situation satisfied that I left a good example for my little brother and sister. Despite the depression, I chose to be there for my family when they needed me, and now you can too -- here's how.
Nicola Spendlove
I've spent some time this week, reflecting on various lessons I've learned from my brother since he became mentally unwell with anxiety and depression. So often in our relationship, I've taken on the role of "teacher" -- as is natural for a bossy older sibling. However, over the last seven years, I have gained a lot from observing how my brother lives with mental illness. I'd like to unpack that a little bit today.
Alixzandria Paige
I’m Alixzandria Paige, and I’m so excited to join HealthyPlace. I grew up in a big family, and unfortunately, many of my family members have a mental illness. While it has been challenging, my family with mental illnesses have all gotten so much better over time. As for me, I have a psychology degree and use my degree experience to help myself and others overcome mental health issues so that we may live the lives that we deserve.
Nicola Spendlove
Caregiver burnout is a very real phenomenon when supporting someone with mental illness. In my experience, caregiver stress and compassion fatigue arise as a result of putting your own needs to the bottom of your list on a consistent basis. I've experienced caregiver burnout on many occasions when supporting my brother with his mental illness -- and if I'm very honest, I'm experiencing it again right now.
Nicola Spendlove
Marrying someone with a mental illness can cause challenges, but so can any marriage. A good friend of mine is married to a man with schizophrenia. And I know from my brother (who also has chronic mental health issues) that romantic relationships can be extra difficult when mental illness is thrown into the mix. My friend kindly shared some of her experiences with me, and I share them on this post with her blessing.