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Mental Health Awareness Week: Family Relationships

The 16th to the 22nd of May is Mental Health Awareness Week. Every year the Mental Health Foundation chooses a theme for Mental Health Awareness Week. Past themes have included anxiety, sleep deprivation and exercise; this year it will be focusing on relationships.

Healthy relationships are fundamental to our health and wellbeing. The Mental Health Foundation says that they are “as vital as better-established lifestyle factors, such as eating well, exercising more and stopping smoking”. Healthy family relationships are very important in maintaining good mental health, and perhaps even more so when coping with mental health problems.

The Mental Health Foundation is encouraging people to make a relationship resolution during Mental Health Awareness Week. This could be something simple like making the effort to sit together for family meals more often, or agreeing to spend more quality time with children.

Relationships between partners

Romantic relationships can have a major impact on mental health. A recent study by mental health charity Mind found that three in five people with mental health problems said that being in a relationship had a positive impact on their mental health. 74% of people surveyed with a mental health problem said that they regularly talked about their mental health with their partner, and 60% said that this made their relationship easier to manage.

However, people with mental health problems and their partners also revealed that the mental health problem did put strain on the relationship, with 80% saying that it affected their sex life.

Healthy romantic relationships can be a big help when coping with mental health problems, but unhealthy relationships can be very damaging. Abusive relationships can cause an otherwise healthy person to develop mental health problems, or worsen existing mental health issues.

People in emotionally or psychologically abusive relationships may be unaware that their relationship is unhealthy. Emotional abuse is often subtle and the abuse may be intermittent. The victim may convince themselves that they are happy within the relationship, and make excuses for their partner’s behaviour. Emotional abuse often leaves people with low self confidence and self-esteem issues. They may also feel as though they cannot confide in anyone in case their partner finds out.

Parent – child relationships

Mental health problems affect around one in ten children and young people, and conditions often develop as a direct result of what is happening in their lives. Mental health problems in children are often overlooked, with 70% of children who experience mental health issues not having had the appropriate interventions. Family relationships are an important factor in maintaining good mental health in children. They need to know that they are loved and understood by their parents, and that they can confide in and trust them.

Family problems

Having an understanding and supportive family can prevent mental illnesses from spiralling out of control, and help people with mental health problems to better manage and overcome their condition.

Whilst every family will experience ups and downs, major family problems can have an impact on the mental health of both parents and children. Issues like divorce, growing up, the arrival of a new baby and relocation can be traumatic for children and lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, it can help to talk to someone openly. It’s important to know that you can also seek professional help. Click here to see if online CBT is available in your area.

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