Helping Your Family With Mental Health Issues

October 6, 2011 Tracey Lloyd

Many times I've complained that my family doesn't really understand mental illness. They don't see the difference between depression and being sad, and even those who visited me in the hospital separated my condition from the severity of my surroundings. As hard as I've tried to get my relations to understand my illness, it's even more difficult to get them to see the signs of severe depression in others.

My cousin Linda is a wonderful woman: giving, funny, ambitious, and a great competitor. She almost singlehandedly handstakes care of her ailing father in another state. Actually, Linda takes care of everyone: she's the shoulder that people lean on when they have a problem. She never says no - I don't think she knows how - and never asks for anything in return. Sounds like a recipe for emotional disaster.

Depression looks…depressing

A few years ago when Linda moved away from her childhood home for work, she started to withdraw socially. Friends and family repeatedly sent emails and voicemails, all of which went unreturned for weeks on end. I started to worry, and summoned a conference call with 2 other cousins, expressing my concern. I was told that she works hard, she just needs some rest. When I pointed out that I KNOW depression and she seems depressed, I was told not to worry.

This year, Linda lost her job, which is nothing to be ashamed about these days. Other folks in my family have been laid off. The thing is, Linda hasn’t acknowledged her job loss, even to those in the same situation. At a recent family gathering, she strangely mentioned going to work the next week. With no job, Linda had to move out of her apartment – which I learned from her mother. I called and texted Linda numerous times, only to learn that her voicemail was full. I called her friends and our cousins to see if they knew what happened, and nobody had heard from her. I suppose she was able to move out, but I still feel like she needs some help and I don’t know what to do about it.

How can you help when help is rejected?

My aunt, Linda’s mom, thinks that everything will be fine when Linda starts working again. But its hard for me to point out that Linda’s behavior has been troubling for years. I find it difficult to say that Linda has multiple signs of long-standing depression and that she needs therapy along with a new job. Linda hasn’t returned my inquiries into her well-being. I think she knows that I can tell that she’s hurting – hell, she saw me in the hospital, at my absolute worst – and she’s not ready to admit it. We’ve got plans for the weekend, during which I’ll smile and entertain her like everything is fine. But on the inside, I’ll wonder when the opportunity will present itself to share what I know.

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APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2011, October 6). Helping Your Family With Mental Health Issues, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 19 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

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