Family Mental Health History

A tool for tracking your family's mental health history

Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and even rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure.

The same holds true for many psychiatric disorders. Researchers have found strong genetic links in bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders.These mental health problems can be passed from one family member to the next, generation-after-generation or even skip generations.

Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.

My Family Health Portrait

Here's a tool for tracking your family's mental health history.In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General encouraged all American families to learn more about their family health history.

Whenever families gather, the Surgeon General encouraged them to talk about, and to write down, the health and mental health problems that seem to run in their family. Learning about your family's mental health and health history may help ensure a longer future together.

Because family health history is such a powerful screening tool, the Surgeon General created a computerized tool to help make it fun and easy for anyone to create a sophisticated portrait of their family's health.

This tool, called "My Family Health Portrait" can be downloaded for free and installed on your own computer.

The tool will help you organize your family tree and help you identify common diseases that may run in your family.

When you are finished, the tool will create and print out a graphical representation of your family's generations and the health disorders that may have moved from one generation to the next. That is a powerful tool for predicting any mental and physical illnesses for which you or other family members should be checked.

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APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2009, January 13). Family Mental Health History, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: June 24, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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