Stress in red pencil

When Mental Health Struggles Spread Through the Family

I came across a well-written piece about the parents of kids who need mental health treatment, and the toll that trying to navigate our current mental healthcare system can cause on the rest of the family. It’s a problem that can leave entire families in tatters as everyone suffers from the lack of affordable and accessible care.

As parents navigate the mental health care system’s shortcomings, stress can start to take a physical and mental health toll that disrupts their ability to continue providing care, said Christine Crawford, the associate medical director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an advocacy group that helps families find care. Parents pour their energy into helping their kids, often at the expense of their own health, Crawford said.

“When you are worrying about whether or not your child is going to survive the day, you are constantly living on edge,” she said. “Your fight-or-flight is constantly activated.”

As the article points out, we’ve all seen the numbers when it comes to youth mental health, and we’ve all seen the numbers when it comes to a lack of available care, whether it’s a lack of insurance, a lack of therapists, etc.

When we add all those numbers up we need to also consider the indirect impacts. The parents trying to navigate the maze of mental healthcare while also trying to work to help pay for the care that winds up not being covered and be there for their other children as well. It’s a lot. All of that stress isn’t good for anyone’s health, mental and physical. Imagine trying to support a child with getting mental healthcare while also needing your own care, or dealing with illnesses.

It’s a mess. I don’t envy parents who find themselves in this position. If you know any parents in this boat, maybe see what they need. Find some way to take a little stress off. Provide a meal or two, run some errands for them, etc. They need it more than they will probably ever admit.

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