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Brookhaven Retreat is Accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Organizations and is licensed by the State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.


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We are a private pay treatment center and do not accept any type of insurance. Costs associated with care are the responsibility of the client.

Monday, 29 October 2018 15:31

Talking to Family About Your Mental Health

Opening up about your mental health problems can feel extremely risky. You never know how people will react, even those in your own family. Ideally, when your family knows you have a mental illness, they will act as a source of support, offering encouragement and understanding. However, opening up to them may be a daunting task. Many people are afraid that their loved ones will judge them, treat them differently or feel uncomfortable around them. This stress leads many to keep their mental health issues a closely held secret.

If you decide to open up to your family and tell them about your mental health disorder, disclosing the truth will help those who love you to fully understand what you are struggling with. This honesty will give them the opportunity to be a source of support giving you trusted people you can talk to about your feelings. It will also help you to face your condition honestly and push past denial so that you can seek the treatment you need.

Tips for Talking About Your Mental Illness

Even if you're ready to open up about your mental illness with your family, you may not know how. There is no way to predict how they'll react, and you may be afraid. But here are some tips that could smooth the way for healthy discussion:

  • Be Selective: Unfortunately, not every member of your family will be able to offer the emotional support you need. If there are those who lack this skill or ability, it doesn't mean they don't love you, but you may want to wait to speak with them openly until you feel ready. It's better to share with those you feel closest to first and whose support you feel will be conducive to recovery.
  • Concrete Examples: When you share, give concrete examples of how your mental illness affects you. For instance, if you have depression, share how the disorder has impacted your daily life.
  • Give Suggestions on How Family Can Support You: Even though your family loves you, they may not know what they can specifically do to help. Feel free to offer suggestions on how they can provide support, such as encouraging you to attend your appointments or take your medication.
  • You Don't Have to Share Everything: You can decide ahead of time which aspects of your experience you wish to share. If they ask questions that make you uncomfortable, you can politely decline to answer.
  • Set Boundaries: Your family may be brimming with advice, both helpful and unhelpful - Afterall, they love you and want to help. You can make it clear ahead of time that you prefer that they hear you out without making suggestions.
  • Keep Things Positive: Be sure to share good things that you've learned in spite of or even through this experience. You can also give the conversation a hopeful tone as you look forward to the successful treatment of your disorder.
  • Provide Educational Information: Your family may not know very much about the specifics of your mental illness. It may be a good idea to have resources available which explain about the disorder.

Don't Be Afraid to Seek Help

Having a support system is essential to successfully managing mental illness. If you find that you can't handle your symptoms, even with family support, it's okay to seek help. Brookhaven Retreat offers a safe environment where women can get the help they need to face their mental illnesses. If you would like more information about our treatment center, browse our website or contact us today.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

Everyone needs food to survive. It provides the energy and nutrients we need to perform tasks and make it through daily activities. However, for a variety of reasons, sometimes people develop an unhealthy relationship with food.

What Does It Mean to Have a Healthy Relationship With Food?

The food we put into our bodies has a direct and long-term impact on our health and wellbeing. You should be mindful of what you eat — both the types of foods you consume and the amount you eat. When you have a healthy relationship with food, you do not fear eating. Not only do you eat for nutrition, but you also eat for enjoyment. This means eating healthy but also being able to enjoy a treat once in a while, like eating a slice of chocolate cake on your birthday. When you have a healthy relationship with food you eat a wide variety of foods in healthy portions, and you generally practice portion control, eating reasonable amounts of food when your body signals it is hungry.

Practice portion control, eat a variety of foods

Someone with a healthy relationship with food will also have a healthy view of exercise and its role in their daily life. You view it as a way to keep your body healthy and strong, not as a punishment for overeating. While you may desire to lose a few pounds or shave a couple inches off of your waist, you are not obsessed with your appearance and you love and accept who you are and how you look.

Tips for Developing a Healthy Relationship With Food

There are many ways to cultivate and maintain a healthy relationship with food. Everyone is different, which means that even the practices and habits they incorporate into their own lives vary. If you are looking for ways to improve your relationship with food, there are eight key strategies to incorporate into your lifestyle.

1. Stay Away From Overly Restrictive Diets

At one time or another, nearly everyone has tried a diet plan. While they do work for some, often people find that these restrictive diets are too hard to keep in practice. Trying to avoid certain foods altogether or cutting out calories can often result in overeating. Rather than restricting yourself to small portions or avoiding certain foods, learn to practice moderation in all areas of eating.

Practice eating in moderation

Listen to your body before, during and after a meal. Your body is designed to give you cues about what it needs, but often people ignore these cues and end up either depriving their bodies of the nutrients it needs or going overboard and eating much more than their body needs. Rather than following a specific diet plan, you may find that you benefit more from learning to read your body's cues and practicing "mindful eating."

2. Eat Regular, Healthy Meals

When you skip a meal, it makes your body even hungrier. When you are hungry, you are more likely to overeat or end up overindulging in foods that are high in fat and sugar. The best way to prevent overeating is to eat regular meals. There is a lot of conflicting research about how many meals you should eat during the day.

Eat regular meals

Conventionally, our society has three primary mealtimes — breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, some research has claimed there may be some benefits to eating five or six smaller meals throughout the day. But, as it turns out, WHEN you eat may not be as critical as WHAT you eat. Most research shows consuming foods rich in protein and fiber — those that keep you full longer — is the ultimate goal of a healthy eater, whether you eat three times a day or six.

3. Seek Out Support

For some people, this may be as simple as surrounding themselves with other healthy eaters. Making sure you eat with other people who have a healthy relationship with food can help you as you develop positive new habits. Staying away from people who practice negative eating behaviors may be important as well so you do not fall into their patterns and mindsets.

Eat with people who have healthy food habits

If you or a loved one suffer from an eating disorder, it may be beneficial to seek out help from a mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders. Not only can these trained pros help you work toward a healthy relationship with food, but they also can identify and treat the underlying issues that may have contributed to the unhealthy eating patterns you established.

4. Keep Unhealthy "Temptation" Foods Out of the House

Eating all foods in moderation is key, but some people find certain unhealthy foods are their undoing in times of stress. They may reach for a bag of potato chips or a container of ice cream, mindlessly eating as they watch television or think through their problems.

If you keep those unhealthy snacks out of your house, it will force you to venture out if you want that snack. Often, the thought of a trip to the grocery store or the ice cream shop can be enough of a deterrent that you may choose to ignore the craving.

However, if the craving is strong enough that you are willing to head out to satisfy it, you can avoid the temptation to overeat by heading to a restaurant instead of the grocery store. For example, rather than buying a half-gallon of ice cream, indulge in a small sundae at your nearest ice cream shop instead.

5. Know the Difference Between a Treat and a Snack

Snacks can help keep you from getting ravenously hungry between meals, which is a good thing when you are trying not to overeat at mealtime. However, a lot of people do not realize there is a big difference between a "treat" and a "snack:"

  • A "treat" is something you eat because it is enjoyable. Examples of a treat would be chocolate, a pastry or some chips.
  • A "snack" is something that you eat to help ward off hunger. It should comprise foods that are both healthy and good at keeping you comfortably full. Examples of a snack include fruit, nuts or low-fat cheese.

Treat vs snack

6. Eat Breakfast Every Day

We already talked about the importance of eating regular meals, but we would be remiss if we did not talk specifically about breakfast. Researchers agree people who eat breakfast tend to be healthier than people who skip the first meal of the day. Why? Starting the day with healthy foods sets you up for healthy eating success all day long because you will not be trying to play catch up on the calories you skipped at the beginning of the day.

However, note the emphasis on "healthy foods." Breakfast itself is important, but it is crucial your breakfast include foods rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Avoid sugary cereals or large amounts of bread and simple carbs because these will not provide the nutrients you need to stay satisfied until your next meal. If you are hungry again by 9:00 a.m., then you may set yourself up for unhealthy eating as the day goes on.

Eat complex carbs and healthy fats for breakfast

A healthy breakfast might be a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, scrambled eggs with vegetables or a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit. Find something that you can enjoy in the morning and fits in your morning routine!

7. Find Alternative Ways to Cope With Stress

Many people turn to food for comfort when they are sad or stressed. If you are eating to deal with your feelings, then you are most likely not paying attention to things like portion control and nutrition. The best thing you can do is seek out alternative ways to process your emotions. Instead of turning to your pantry to cope with stress, consider going for a walk or calling a friend.

Find alternative coping mechanisms

As we mentioned, there are times when you may need more than just a friend's listening ear. If you find your urges to eat during times of sadness or stress are uncontrollable, find professional help to process the things causing those negative feelings and responses.

8. Everything in Moderation

One of the ideas many people struggle with is that certain foods are their enemy, and this is just not true. Food is not the problem — often our experiences with it or preconceived notions about certain foods create the problem. To have a healthy relationship with food, you must become comfortable with consuming a wide variety of foods, even the occasional slice of pizza or order of chili cheese fries.

The best way to indulge safely is to plan ahead:

  • Choose to indulge at a time when you are not hungry for a full meal. For example, if you want to eat chocolate cake, save it for after dinner so you can savor one moderately sized slice on an already contented stomach, rather than giving in to the temptation to eat several slices because you are famished after a long day at work.
  • Or, if you want to eat crackers, put a set amount in a bowl and then put the box back in the pantry rather than just trying to moderate yourself as you eat directly out of the bag.

The ultimate tip for practicing a healthy relationship with food is to develop a healthy lifestyle. That means you may need time to cultivate new habits and break old ones. A slow and steady transformation is the best way for most people to develop a healthy relationship with food.

If you suspect you or a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, which is a much more serious issue, then you need to seek out professional help.

The Impact of Unhealthy Relationships With Food

Whether healthy or unhealthy, your relationship with food is the result of a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • Environment
  • Body image
  • Past experiences

Everyone has times where they are unhappy with the image they see in the mirror. You may have even tried a diet or exercise plan aimed to cut calories and reduce your weight. These behaviors and thoughts do not automatically mean that someone has, or is at risk for, an eating disorder. So, then, what is the difference?

At a high level — the difference is that when a person is on a diet, they may cut out unhealthy foods of their diet in an effort to improve their health. Once they reach a healthy weight or lifestyle, they are satisfied and feeling confident and good about themselves. A person with an eating disorder cannot just lose a few pounds and then be satisfied. This is because having an eating disorder is not really about food at all.

Reassessing Your Relationship With Food

When a person's relationship with food deteriorates to the point where they begin practicing unhealthy behaviors, such as excessively restricting themselves, purging or overeating, it is typically a sign there is a bigger problem. An eating disorder is an outward cry for help that indicates an equally serious problem on the inside.

For many people, their relationship with food can be traced back to their body image — how they think about their body when they look in a mirror or think about themselves. Besides their actual weight, this can include:

  • How they perceive themselves
  • How they move
  • How they look

While everyone has these perceptions about their bodies, someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food often allows these perceptions to negatively influence their eating habits. However, despite many people's perception, an eating disorder does not always occur just because someone wants to get thin. Typically, an eating disorder is an outward sign of mental and emotional issues that need to be addressed by a team of medical and mental health professionals.

Negative self-image increases risks for eating disorders

People who have negative perceptions about themselves and their bodies are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. Those struggling with an anxiety disorder, perfectionism, a history of trauma or bullying, among other factors, are at particularly high risk to develop an eating disorder. There is also a strong link between ADHD and eating disorders, particularly in women.

Eating disorders are not gender-specific, although statistically, women are more likely to struggle with an eating disorder than men. Regardless of gender, eating disorders tend to appear during adolescence or early adulthood. However, this does not mean adults cannot develop an eating disorder later in life. Age should never be a deciding factor in determining whether or not someone is struggling with an eating disorder.

Women are more likely to struggle with eating disorders

While there are several different types of common eating disorders, most fall under one of three categories.

1. Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa may be the most well-known eating disorder. People who develop anorexia have a distorted view of their body image, which often leads them to think of themselves as overweight even when the numbers on the scale indicate that they are actually underweight. They often obsessively monitor their weight on the scale and restrict their calorie intake.

Symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Severely restricted eating
  • Underweight, especially when compared with peers of the same height and age
  • Body image disorders and self-esteem issues driven by weight
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Obsessive-compulsive tendencies demonstrated in a tendency to hoard food or collect recipes
  • Trouble eating in public
  • Intense desire to control their environment

Most people believe someone with anorexia does not eat. This is a false perception. There are actually two different kinds of anorexia nervosa. One kind is the restrictive-eating category most people are familiar with. The other kind is actually categorized by a cycle of binge eating and purging.

People struggling with the restrictive type of anorexia restrict themselves, sometimes to the point of not eating at all, and they also often exercise obsessively. Individuals with the bingeing and purging tendencies will eat — sometimes excessively, other times more moderately — and then purge the food they ate, either forcing themselves to vomit or taking laxatives, diuretics or obsessively exercising to erase the calories they consumed.

Over time, people with anorexia may find their bones become brittle. They can develop a fine layer of hair over their entire body, as well as see their hair and nails grow brittle. They may struggle with infertility issues as well. If left untreated, anorexia can lead to organ failure and death.

2. Bulimia

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by excessively bingeing — especially on foods that the individual would normally avoid — and then purging to relieve discomfort. The biggest difference between this and anorexia is people struggling with bulimia often maintain a fairly normal weight, which means their outward appearance may not change as drastically as that of someone suffering from anorexia.

Symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Reoccuring binges, accompanied by an out-of-control feeling
  • Reoccuring purging with the intent of preventing weight gain
  • Fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image and self-image shaped by views of appearance

Over time, people who struggle with bulimia may experience a sore throat, painful acid reflux, stomach irritation, tooth decay, dehydration and hormonal issues. In severe cases, a person with bulimia can experience low levels of electrolytes which, if not treated, can result in heart attack or stroke.

3. Binge Eating Disorder

You may not be as familiar with this particular condition because it has only recently been recognized as an eating disorder, which is ironic because some believe it is actually the most common eating disorder in the United States. Binge eating disorder starts out similar to both anorexia and bulimia — a person eats large amounts of food in a short amount of time and feels completely out of control to stop the consumption. However, the difference between this and the others is the person who binges does not do anything to purge the calories they have taken in.

Symptoms of binge eating disorder include:

  • Eating large quantities of food quickly and secretly, even when you are not hungry
  • Feeling powerless and out of control to stop eating
  • Experiencing feelings of guilt, shame or disgust when thinking about bingeing
  • No purging or attempts to "make up for" the calories consumed through exercise

People with binge eating disorder are typically overweight, which increases their risk of serious medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Know When It Is Time to Seek Help

If you or someone you love wants to know how to fix an unhealthy relationship with food, you are not alone. You may be feeling overwhelmed and ashamed by the behaviors you or your loved one are practicing. While these feelings themselves are normal, they are not true. Do not be ashamed or try to hide what is happening. An eating disorder is a treatable condition. It is not something to "get over" without proper treatment. If you experience these symptoms, the best thing you can do is ask for help.

Sometimes, well-meaning friends and family believe an eating disorder can be overcome by encouraging healthy eating. While this is admirable, someone struggling with an eating disorder has issues with a lot more than just calories. Eating disorders often have roots in other mental health disorders that need to be addressed by experienced and compassionate professionals.

Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only inpatient treatment center specializing in the treatment of mental health issues and substance addictions, including eating disorders and their underlying causes. Our team of doctors and mental health professionals is dedicated to providing individually tailored, holistic treatment plans for each patient based on their individual needs and situations. There is no reason to wait another day. If you or a loved one suffer from an eating disorder, we want to help you reclaim your life. Get the help you deserve by contacting us today.

Get help with an eating disorder today

Published in Brookhaven Blog

When the to-do list is piling up, and you've got work, family and the hustle and bustle of daily life to worry about, self-care sounds like an impossible dream. But more medical and mental health experts are encouraging people to reevaluate their priorities to work a self-care routine into the rhythm of their day to day life.

Self-care looks different to each individual. For some, it means slicing out some time for a bubble bath and a good book. For another, it may be getting a solid workout in every morning. Whatever you choose, self-care involves a short amount of time each day dedicated to activities that help you recharge and feel good.

Those who treat self-care as a priority and dedicate even just 15 minutes a day to these kinds of activities experience huge benefits to their physical, mental and emotional health. They're not only likely to feel less stressed, but it also fills them with a deep satisfaction and fulfillment. If you're feeling overwhelmed by stress or like you need a little more self-love in your life, then it's time to implement a daily self-care routine.

Tips for Developing a Self-Care Routine You Can Actually Stick To

It sounds great — doing things that make you happy as a means of caring for yourself — but many find it difficult to carve out even small amounts of time for self-care. However, the benefits of these activities have long-lasting results, giving you improved overall health both now and in the future.

Whether you've attempted to implement a self-care routine before or this is your first try, here are some tips on how you can actually get these habits to be apart of your daily schedule and stick with it.

1. Schedule Your Time Wisely

If you find it difficult to prioritize self-care into your schedule, then you need to pencil in a time just for you. Whether it be 15-20 minutes in the morning to exercise and stretch or a half hour at night to watch the sun set, it's important to treat your self-care time with the same importance you would any other scheduled appointment. Even if you have to adjust when things get hectic, working self-care into your daily routine will help you make it a habit.

2. Do Things You Actually Enjoy

Exercise, making kale smoothies and reading are all great self-care activities, but if you don't like to do them, then they may be more of a burden than a relief. Also, if you don't like something, chances are your new self-care time won't stick. The goal of self-care is to find things that give you a sense of peace and help you feel energized.

There are tons of activities to choose from, such as:

  • Get outdoors and take a walk
  • Keep a journal
  • Color or paint
  • Play an instrument or listen to music
  • Give yourself a manicure, facial or implement some other personal hygiene routine
  • Plan time with friends
  • Anything else that sounds relaxing and fun to you

3. Begin With the Basics

Self-care is intended to preserve your overall health and well-being. So the best way to start is by making sure you are practicing basic self-care, which includes a full night's rest and a proper eating schedule.

When you're deprived of the proper amount of sleep, you are more prone to both mental and physical ailments. Give yourself a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule so that you receive the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. In the same vein, eating healthy is great, but you also need to space your meals properly, so your body feels nourished and energized. Try eating small, healthy snacks in between meals to help keep yourself from getting too hungry.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Many people lose the pleasure of their self-care routine because they're too busy stressing about what's coming next in their day. Focus on the present and allowing all other thoughts and worries to pass by without giving them attention. A great way to practice mindfulness is to incorporate gratitude and consciously acknowledge the things you're thankful for

5. Put Away Distractions

In our tech-savvy world, it's easy to squander our free time by checking our phones or computers. But it's recommended that your self-care activity include something other than staring at a screen. Be sure to focus your valuable time on an activity that will give you a sense of pleasure and accomplishment.

6. Keep It Simple

The last thing you need is another thing you have to do. When you view self-care in this way, it becomes a burden, and you may feel guilty when you don't have time for it. Focus on the pleasurable feelings that self-care is supposed to provide as opposed to the activities themselves. They don't have to be lengthy, costly or complicated to give positive benefits to your life.

7. Keep Yourself Accountable

You may feel that practicing self-care is selfish, but it's actually the best thing you can do for your family and friends. When you are revitalized, you can better take care of those around you. For that reason, it's important to hold yourself accountable. And if you find it difficult to prioritize your self-care, find a friend who can help keep you accountable. You can even find an activity you enjoy doing together.

Make Your Mental Health a Part of Your Self-Care Routine

Many people think self-care should focus only on their physical bodies, but your mental and emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health. The best self-care activities provide benefits on multiple fronts. They not only help us physically, but they also push us to improve our mental wellbeing.

Incorporating activities that promote positive mental health has other benefits such as improved immunity, increased productivity and even longer lifespans. Some self-care activities known for their mental health benefits include:

  • Exercise
  • Social time with family and friends
  • Time in the outdoors
  • Volunteering and good deeds for other people
  • Laughter
  • Learning new things

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

If anxiety, depression or another mental health issue is causing you to lose sight of your own self-care, then it may be time to reach out for help. Many people feel that they need to handle these issues on their own, but asking for help when you need it may be the first step to establishing a healthier outlook on life. Brookhaven Retreat provides women with the treatment and skills they need to overcome and manage a number of different mental health disorders. Contact us today to learn more!

Published in Brookhaven Blog

There's something truly unique about the fall season. As the weather cools and the colors of autumn crop up all around us, life seems to slow down after the hustle and bustle of the hot summer months. This makes fall the perfect season to de-stress. There are tons of relaxing autumnal activities, from baking apple pies to picking out a pumpkin for your front stoop. But one hobby that should not be overlooked is arts and crafts.

Art therapy is a component of many mental health treatment programs, including the one at Brookhaven Retreat. Whether you struggle with mental health issues or you're simply bogged down by stress, bringing arts and crafts into your life gives you a creative outlet to express yourself. It also has been shown to provide proven benefits for mental health, such as:

  • Creating a sense of calm
  • Blocking stressors from your daily life
  • Decluttering your mind
  • Engaging the creative thinking aspect of your brain
  • Increasing the brain's ability to grow new connections
  • Boosting self-esteem
  • Increasing feelings of love and empathy for others

5 Fall-Themed Crafts for Adults

If you're feeling stressed, then it's time to break out your crafting materials and get into the spirit of fall. Here are five fall-themed crafts you're sure to enjoy:

1. Fall Pumpkins With a Natural Twist

These understated and classy pumpkins don't scream Halloween. All you need are pumpkins of various shapes and sizes, white spray paint, mod podge or spray glue, a paint brush and an array of real or fake colorful fall leaves.

First, paint your pumpkin white. Once it's dry, spray your glue or apply your mod podge, then lay out your fall leaves in a pattern that pleases you. Then finish it off with another layer of mod podge, which will dry clear.

2. Pumpkin Mason Jars

Mason jars provide a fun rustic touch to any home, and this craft allows you to dress them up to resemble your favorite fall gourds. All you need are mason jars of any shape, white paint primer, orange acrylic or spray paint, green cardstock, small wood pegs and a glue gun.

Paint your mason jars and their lids with the white primer paint, and once that's dry, paint them orange. Cut your cardstock into leaf shapes and long thin strips. Wind the strips around pencils to create curly cues. Glue the leaves and curly cues onto the peg with your glue gun. Once dry, glue all this onto the mason jar's lid.

3. Fall Bucket List

Having a hard time figuring out which fall activity you and your family should do next? This craft is not only a fun decoration, but it's also a great way to decide what's next on your autumnal agenda. All you need is a small tin bucket, large popsicle sticks, a fun fall filler like acorns, leaves or candy corn, paint, a paintbrush and a sharpie.

This craft is simple. Paint your popsicle sticks fun fall colors and use the sharpie to write out some fall activities you'd like to do this season. Fill the bucket with your fall filler and stick the popsicle sticks inside. Then write "Fall Bucket List" on your bucket either with paint or sharpie.

4. Leaf and Book Page Banner

These banners combine the colors of fall with a little literary flair. First, go hunting for some colorful fall leaves and place them in books to dry out and maintain their gorgeous colors. You will also need an old book you don't mind cutting pages from and some twine.

Once your colorful leaves are dry, cut pages out of an old book in a pennant shape leaving extra room at the top. Glue the leaves onto the pennant using an adhesive of your choice. Fold the top portion of your pennant over and staple it. Once you've completed all your pages, string twine through your pennant pages, and you're done.

5. Paper Roll Pumpkins

This simple fall decor allows you to utilize common household objects that are usually tossed away — toilet paper or paper towel rolls. Along with these, you will need mod podge, decorations of your choice like pages from an old book or glitter, twine, twigs or cinnamon sticks and burlap.

Decorate your rolls however you wish — think gold glitter or book pages adhered with mod podge — then cut the roll into small rings. You can string these together using twine to form your pumpkin shape. The cinnamon sticks or twigs will make the stem of the pumpkin, and the burlap you cut into leaf shapes and glue them to the top.

Published in Brookhaven Blog

When someone has a mental illness, the repercussions of the disease extend beyond their own life, often impacting those closest to them. The families of these individuals can be severely affected by mental health disorders, emotionally, mentally and even physically. Whether it be concerned parents coping with grief or guilt, a spouse struggling to make it through each day and not knowing how to help or even small children who are confused by the change in their parent or sibling, the impact of mental illness on families shouldn't be downplayed.

Although mental health issues can have devastating effects on every member of the family, there is hope. Many mental illnesses are very treatable. And as families get the information they need as well as outside support to cope with the disease's effects, healing can come. However, families should first confront how their loved one's mental illness has negatively impacted family dynamics. By doing so, they can grieve and move forward with realistic expectations.

How Mental Health Issues Can Impact Families

From the smallest member of the family to the oldest, when one person in the family unit struggles with mental illness, everyone feels its effects. Those most affected are usually the parents, spouse or significant other and children of those with the disorder, but other members of the family can feel its impact as well. There are quite a few different ways an individual's mental health issues can hit families, including:

  • Emotional Upheaval: After a loved one is diagnosed, a variety of powerful emotions can run through every member of the family. Parents often experience guilt, wondering if their child's illness is due to bad parenting. Siblings and children often struggle with understanding how to help. Anger is another reaction family members may experience, as mental illness can make family members feel out of control and powerless to help.
  • Stress: As members of the family feel the impact of their loved one's mental illness, they might begin to worry as to when the symptoms will strike next or what the future holds for their affected loved one. This often causes extreme stress and can even make them feel like they have to walk on eggshells constantly.
  • Confusion: Children especially experience quite a bit of confusion when they witness changes to the behavior of their parent or loved one brought about by mental illness. If they don't understand the cause of this change, their confusion can give way to fear or even anger. It's essential that they have an outlet to express how they feel.
  • Feelings of Uncertainty: Mental health issues can erode a family's sense of well-being as they watch their loved one suffer from their illness. Because of this and the resulting uncertainty of the situation, family members might begin distancing themselves from their loved one or even experiencing negative physical and emotional symptoms themselves.
  • Feelings of Neglect: When a family cares for a loved one with a mental health issue, other members of the family like small children or siblings sometimes end up feeling neglected. Because the care of the individual with the illness becomes all-consuming, these other family members are left feeling that their needs or feelings don't matter.
  • Grief: As the full implications of a loved one's mental illness become apparent, family members may experience a deep sense of grief. Most hope that once their loved one gets help, they'll be able to return to life as it was before, but they are worried about the changes to come.

Seeking Professional Help Can Benefit Everyone

Loving and caring for someone with a mental illness can take a huge toll on a family. That's why it's essential to find support. If you're feeling the impact of your loved one's mental health issue, it's okay to ask for help. There are many treatment programs available that not only address issues for those diagnosed with a mental illness, but that also include family therapy components.

Brookhaven Retreat is a women-only inpatient mental health treatment center that addresses the impact mental health issues can have both on the individual and on their families. Our programs offer a family therapy component that allows individuals diagnosed with a mental illness to work with their loved ones to overcome the impact their symptoms have had on everyone involved in their lives, especially those closest to them. If you would like to learn more, please contact us today.

Published in Brookhaven Blog