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Taking Care of Family
Having a Parent or Other Family Member with a Mental Illness
Many young people have a family member with a mental illness. In the U.S., 22 million adults with depression have a child at home. In Australia, one in four children have a parent with a mental illness. In addition, young people may have brothers and sisters or other family members who have mental illnesses. It is possible that these mental illnesses have been diagnosed by a professional person like a doctor.
It is also possible that some people have a mental illness and have not seen a doctor. In the U.S., only about 35% of adults with mental illness get help for their mental health problems. This all means that a LOT of people have a mental illness. Many young people are living with someone who has a mental illness.
Good Days and Bad Days
Dr. Riebschleger talks to children, teens, and young adults that have a parent with a mental illness. They told her that their family has “good days” and “bad days.” These days depend on how good or bad the person with the mental illness feels.
For example, consider Jennifer, age 15. Jennifer loves her mom a lot. They are extremely close. Jennifer's mom was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after Jennifer was born. Jennifer and her mom usually get along awesome. They go on long bike rides together through the park by their house. Jennifer and her mom have their own spot in the park where they always take a break and have a candy bar. They jokingly call it the "sweet spot."
Jennifer and her mom love these bike rides when her mom is having a good day. There are also times when her mom doesn't want to go for rides. She is stuck in bed with no energy or on the couch watching TV. She gets grumpy and won't do anything. Jennifer knows when it's going to be one of these bad days because her mom wakes up way after her normal time.
On bad days, Jennifer has to do a lot more. She has to make her own food. She does her homework without help. She even sometimes has to go grocery shopping. Jennifer knows that her life is different than many kids. It doesn't matter to her. She loves her mom and wouldn't trade her for anything.
Does your parent or family member have a mental illness? What do your good days and bad days look like? What would you tell Jennifer to help her feel better on bad days?