Building Resilience and Increasing Protective Factors Around Family Mental Health
It can be hard to imagine that someone in your family could be struggling with mental illness, but the hard truth is that 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experience a mental health disorder each year. Whether it be depression, substance use disorder, or anxiety, mental illness affects us all – not just those who are diagnosed.
Fortunately, while it’s not always possible to prevent mental health concerns altogether, there are a number of things you can do in order to increase the resilience of your family members. Increased resilience and protective factors can help make sure that those of us who face mental health concerns are able to “bounce back.”
Ways to Increase Your Family’s Resilience Against Mental Health Conditions
- Ensure that all loved ones have a healthy way to cope with emotional distress, whether through journaling, yoga, meditation, creating art or music, use of support groups, or other hobbies.
- Regular physical exercise and balanced nutrition is important, as well.
- Some find strength through a religious faith or other form of spirituality.
- Perhaps most important to building resilience in your family is letting your loved ones know they have your unconditional support!
Western Tidewater Community Services Board offers a few programs that focus on strengthening the family unit and increasing some of these protective factors, including the following:
- Strong African American Families (SAAF) is a series of classes that aims to strengthen the family as a unit and encourage adolescents to avoid risky behaviors such as substance use.
- Another incredible resource is the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) training, which shines light on how impactful facing adversity in youth can be.
- The Nurturing Parenting Program (NPP) is an initiative that teaches positive parenting skills. One of the key ideas of this program is that experiencing traumatic events as a child can impact development and diminish their resilience to mental health concerns.
How Do I Know If a Family Member is Struggling?
If you are unsure if your loved one is struggling with their mental health, here are some signs you can look for:
- Appearing withdrawn in social situations
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Noticeable changes in mood, personality, or overall emotional state
- Sudden increase in risk-taking behaviors
Of course, the easiest way to know how a person is doing is to ask them in a gentle and direct manner. It can feel difficult and awkward at first, but letting them know you are there for them could mean the world to them.
Start out with something simple, “I’ve noticed _____ lately. How are you doing? I’m here if you need to talk.” Be ready to listen non-judgmentally and ask questions.
Okay, We’ve Started the Conversation About Mental Health – Now What Do We Do?
If the person is not in a mental health crisis, ask how they would like to move forward. Encourage them to seek help but avoid pushing if they decline. Some people benefit from therapy, whether as a group or as an individual. Medical management may also be an option. If you as the support person are feeling overwhelmed, there are caregiver support groups that aim to help manage stress and take time for self-care.
To seek help, make an appointment for same-day access online or call us at 757-758-5106.
If you or someone close to you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the Region Five crisis line at 757-656-7755.