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Starting the Conversation about Mental Health in your Family

Our families are our first connections with the world. We are shaped by the people that raised us, and sometimes families can create a culture where it feels impossible to talk when you’re struggling. Maybe your guardian shoots you down when you say you’re depressed, or tells you not to think about something when you say you have anxiety. This creates a reminder in our minds that we can’t talk to this person when we’re struggling. Mental health is a topic that a lot of families won’t talk about and most of the time it comes from a place of misunderstanding.

The stigma of mental health can be past down from generation to generation. Its important to remember to be gentle to those who might not understand your situation.

There is a generational gap when talking about mental health. A lot of individuals in the older generation don’t understand that depression can’t be cured completely by spending more time outside, or that anxiety isn’t just a fear of something. This can be because they don’t understand the depth of these disorders or because they think talking about your feelings is a weakness. Talking about your feelings can cause people to say that you need to get over it, let it go, or just think about something else. When you are anxious about something, or depressed, it can feel like no one is listening to you when they say things like that.

So, how do you start the conversation?

It starts with understanding that more than likely, your family doesn’t mean to discredit your experience. A lot of issues when talking to family about your struggles can be linked to the generational gap and them being told from a young age that they need to just get over something. Your family likely went through similar struggles and are proud of their ability to internalize their problems. This can cause its own issues, so it’s important to recognize if this is happening in your family unit.

A common misconception that they might have is that people who are depressed are lazy, or that everyone who has a mental health diagnosis is just “crazy” or “being dramatic”. It can be hard to reason with that. However, being honest with your family and explaining that you are struggling is a good step. You don’t have to sugarcoat it for them. There’s a reason that you want to seek therapy or medication, and they need to understand.

Opening up to your family can be hard, but it is important to recognize that your mental health comes first.

Honest conversations about how you’re feeling, check-ins with your family, and openly talking about therapy or medication can lessen the stigma that your family has perpetuated. If you are honest about what you’re going through and explain to them that you need them in your support system, they might be more inclined to listen.

If you are currently in therapy or want to seek therapy from a therapist at Mindisight, you can also talk to your therapist about setting up a family therapy session. A family therapy session can be a good time for your family members to talk about their thoughts about your struggles, for you to explain how their support is necessary, and your therapist to provide insight into your treatment without breaking confidentiality.

If you are struggling and need someone to talk to, the therapists at Mindsight are here to help you! If you think you may benefit from individual or family therapy, please contact us today.

Shelby Case is a new therapist at Mindsight Louisville! Shelby's favorite things include spending time with her animals and her spouse, watching television (currently they are watching Big Brother), and taking road trips. When she isn't providing therapy to clients, she can be found playing video games (her favorite is The Sims 4) or spending too much money at a thrift store. Shelby's favorite color is green and her guilty pleasure is reality TV shows.

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