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Parenting and Mental Illness

Nicola Spendlove
Supporting someone in denial about their mental health can be a very delicate situation. A friend of mine is living this reality at present -- her partner is exhibiting clear symptoms of mental illness but is not able to have a conversation about it just yet. Supporting my friend has reminded me of when my brother was also in denial about his mental health before he received a diagnosis. Here are some of the things I learned through that experience.
Nicola Spendlove
When we're supporting someone with mental illness, I think it's very important to constantly examine how healthy our relationship with that person is. As my brother lives with chronic mental illness, I have first-hand experience of how unhealthy behaviors can easily creep into relationships, even with the best of intentions.
Nicola Spendlove
I have been down a serious Google rabbit hole this past week on the subject of mental illness masking other conditions. The reason for this is personal -- my brother is currently undergoing diagnostic testing for autism. The more I think about this, the more it makes sense that mental illness could inhibit timely diagnosis of other issues.
Nicola Spendlove
Respecting the boundaries of mentally ill loved ones should be a given, but sometimes we push these boundaries -- I've certainly been guilty of this in the past. Even when this is done out of good intent, I don't believe it is a fair thing to do. I have learned a lot on this topic through my experience with my brother, who has chronic mental health problems. Here's a bit of a reflection on those learnings.
Nicola Spendlove
Like many, I tuned into the Meghan and Harry interview last week, and I was particularly interested in Meghan's account of her mental illness being ignored by the royal family. Regardless of your thoughts on this particular couple, this is, sadly, a common issue in many families. Mental illness is ignored in families regularly, perhaps because we simply don't know how else to cope with it. I think we need to do better.
Nicola Spendlove
I am experiencing heightened anxiety at the moment, as I am waiting for important medical results. I usually avoid sharing my anxiety with my family, but this time I decided to be more open. Telling my brother, who has chronic mental health issues, about what I am going through was surprisingly helpful.
Alixzandria Paige
My parents filed for a divorce when I was 10 years old. This experience uprooted the development of my childhood and aided in the decline of my mental health. Although the divorce caused me a lot of pain, I learned how to face it and move past it.
Nicola Spendlove
Pets are important and beneficial in general, but they can play a special role in the lives of those with mental illness. I never owned any pets as a child, but I adopted a dog as an adult, and my brother has become an honorary pet parent as a result. I am amazed to watch how his relationship with my dog helps him cope with chronic anxiety and depression. Here is a short reflection on the benefits of pets for family members with mental illness.
Nicola Spendlove
Approaching others about their mental health can be an awkward situation, but sometimes it's necessary. A big regret I have about my brother's journey with chronic mental illness is that I didn't raise my concerns about his symptoms sooner. If you're unsure whether or not to have that difficult conversation with a friend or family member, here are some insights I've picked up over the last few years.
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.