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How Should I Deal With a Mentally Unstable Family Member? 

Written by Dr. Anjali Talcherkar

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Having a family member who struggles with mental illness can be tough, but you’re not alone. Whether it’s a parent, spouse, or sibling, navigating the challenges of living with someone who is mentally unstable can be overwhelming. You might wonder if you can force them to get help or if they can be committed to a psychiatric facility. It’s important to remember that you can’t force someone to seek treatment if they’re not ready, but there are steps you can take to support them. 

Firstly, it’s crucial to have open and honest conversations with your family member about their mental health struggles. Let them know that you’re there for them and willing to help in any way you can. Encourage them to seek professional help and offer to accompany them to appointments if needed. Additionally, you can research local resources and treatment options to provide them with information and support. Remember to take care of yourself too and seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if you need it. Mental illness can be challenging, but help is available.  

What Does it Mean to Be Mentally Ill? 

Being mentally ill means experiencing changes in your thoughts, emotions, or behaviors that make it hard to cope with daily life. It’s like having a health issue, but instead of affecting your body, it affects your mind. Other terms used for mental illness include psychiatric disorders, emotional disorders, mental health problems, psychological disorders, and behavioral health conditions. These terms encompass a wide range of conditions that affect an individual’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and overall mental well-being. Mental illnesses come in many forms, such as:     

While the specific symptoms and severity can vary, mental illness can significantly impact a person’s daily functioning and quality of life. People with mental illnesses might have trouble concentrating, sleeping, or taking care of themselves. They might act differently than they used to, such as being withdrawn or overly energetic. Mental health professionals, like therapists and psychiatrists, help treat these conditions. They use therapy, medication, or a combination of both to help people feel better. Just like going to a doctor for a physical ailment, seeking help for mental health issues is important for getting better and living a fulfilling life. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help when you’re struggling with your mental health. Seeking support from mental health professionals and accessing appropriate treatment options can help individuals manage their symptoms and improve their overall mental health and well-being. 

Is Family Mental Illness a Thing? 

Family mental illness is indeed a reality, and genetics can play a significant role in its development. When one or more family members experience mental health issues, it can increase the likelihood of other family members also developing similar conditions. This phenomenon is often linked to genetic factors passed down through generations. 

Genetics plays a crucial role in mental illness, as certain genetic variations can predispose individuals to specific conditions. For example, if a parent has depression or bipolar disorder, their children may inherit genetic traits that make them more susceptible to these disorders. However, it’s essential to recognize that genetics is just one piece of the puzzle, and environmental factors also play a significant role in the development of mental illness. 

Environment Matters

Growing up in a household where a parent or caregiver struggles with mental illness can have a profound impact on a child’s well-being. Children may experience increased stress, instability, and emotional distress, which can contribute to the development of mental health issues later in life. This highlights the importance of early intervention and support for both the individual experiencing mental illness and their family members. 

Understanding the role of genetics in family mental illness can help individuals and families take proactive steps to manage their mental health. Seeking support from mental health professionals, accessing appropriate treatment options, and implementing healthy coping strategies can all help lessen the impact of genetic predispositions and promote overall well-being within the family unit. By addressing mental health issues proactively and collectively, families can work towards breaking the cycle of intergenerational mental illness and fostering healthier, happier lives for future generations.  

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How Should I Deal With a Mentally Unstable Family Member? 

If you have a family member who’s struggling with mental illness, it’s essential to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. You can’t force someone to get help if they’re not ready, but you can offer support and encouragement. Start by having open and honest conversations about their feelings and struggles. Let them know you’re there for them and willing to help in any way you can. 

Research local resources and treatment options together, and offer to accompany them to appointments if they’re willing. Encourage them to talk to a therapist or counselor who can provide professional support and guidance. If the situation becomes urgent or unsafe, you can contact a mental health professional or crisis hotline for assistance. Remember, taking care of yourself is also essential, so don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if you need it.  

Can You Force Someone to Get Mental Help in New Jersey? 

In New Jersey, involuntary mental health treatment is possible under certain circumstances, primarily if someone poses a risk to themselves or others due to their mental illness. The process typically involves filing a petition with the court, which initiates an evaluation by mental health professionals. If the individual meets the criteria for involuntary treatment, they may be committed to a psychiatric facility for further evaluation and treatment. 

However, the decision to involuntarily hospitalize someone is not taken lightly and must follow strict legal guidelines to protect the individual’s rights. Mental health professionals must thoroughly assess the individual’s condition and provide evidence of the level of risk they pose. Additionally, individuals have the right to legal representation and a hearing before a judge to contest the involuntary commitment if they wish. Overall, involuntary mental health treatment in New Jersey is a complex process designed to balance the individual’s rights with the need for intervention in cases of severe mental illness.  

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What Kinds of Therapy Help Mental Illness?  

Therapy can be like a toolbox full of different tools to help manage mental illness. Here are some common types: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps you understand how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. You’ll learn to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT helps manage intense emotions and improve relationships. It teaches skills like mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. 
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): IPT focuses on improving communication and relationships. It helps you understand how your relationships impact your mental health and teaches skills to resolve conflicts. 
  • Exposure Therapy: This therapy is used to treat anxiety disorders, phobias, and PTSD. It involves gradually exposing yourself to feared situations or objects in a safe and controlled way to reduce fear and anxiety. 
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is used to process traumatic memories and reduce their impact on mental health. It involves focusing on distressing memories while engaging in bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or tapping. 
  • Psychodynamic Therapy: This therapy explores how past experiences and unconscious thoughts influence current behavior. It helps you gain insight into unresolved conflicts and patterns from your past. 
  • Family Therapy: Family therapy involves working with your family to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and support each other’s mental health. 

These therapies can be used alone or in combination, depending on your needs and preferences. It’s like having a personalized roadmap to navigate the challenges of mental illness and build a happier, healthier life.  

Find Mental Health Treatment for a Loved One in New Jersey  

Finding mental health treatment for a loved one in New Jersey can be daunting, but Footprints to Recovery Mental Health (FTR MH) offers a range of comprehensive treatment options to support your loved one’s journey to wellness. Our facility provides personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual’s unique needs and preferences. 

At our facility, your loved one can access a variety of evidence-based therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and individual and group therapy. Our skilled professionals offer medication management and holistic therapies such as art therapy, yoga, holistic therapies, and mindfulness practices to promote overall well-being. 

With a compassionate and supportive team by their side, your loved one can receive the care and guidance they need to address their mental health concerns and build a foundation for lasting recovery. Whether they’re struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health issues, FTR MH is committed to providing the highest quality of care to help them reclaim their lives and thrive. Contact us today to explore your options.  

Anjali Talcherkar
Medically Reviewed by David Szarka
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