Mental health and substance use disorders do not discriminate. Anyone can experience these problems. Often, when someone is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem, they do not do so in a vacuum. Friends, families and loved ones are affected as well.
Caregivers and Mental Health
Did you know, at least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue. Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care.
Being there for your loved one, can make a significant difference in their recovery process. If you or someone you know is a friend or family member of an individual struggling with mental health or substance use disorders, you know it can be taxing.
According to a Swedish study, one half of family members of an individual with a mental health or substance use disorder claimed they had developed psychological or social problems (such as sleeping problems and depression) of their own, to such an extent that they also needed help and support.
How Many People Can a Mental Health Issue Affect
According to a psychcentral survey in 2021, just under 50% of individuals have 3-5 close friends, almost 40% have 4-9 close friends, and 13% report 10 or more close friends. In addition, the 2022 census bureau data found an average of 3 people in the family unit.
Considering 44 million people are likely to experience a mental health disorder in any given year, according to Mental Health America, that means there are a lot of affected friends and family members in tow. Being on the outside of someone’s treatment can be a difficult time emotionally, physically and spiritually.
When an individual needs mental health treatment, a myriad of emotions and questions may come up for the loved ones. What could I have done differently? Is this my fault? How do I show support and hold a boundary? And many more.
Thinking back to the numbers, if one individual is in treatment, it is likely that anywhere between 3-10 or more people are affected. This puts you, statistically, in abundant company. Attending support groups designed for family and caregivers is a great way to connect with others, share your experiences, ask questions, learn about mental health and substance use disorders, and share strength and hope. At the very least, it is a way to know you are not alone in this journey.
Support Options for Caregivers: Resources
I want to explore the support options for the families and caregivers of individuals in treatment, considering treatment and who are not ready or willing to seek treatment currently.
What I personally love about family support groups is there are usually caregivers present at almost every stage of a loved one’s disorder. Some families may be new to the entire treatment world, while others may feel worn down, hoping this time will be different and praying for hope to continue to be optimistic. Wherever you are on this spectrum, the support helps.
If your loved one is currently in treatment, check with the treatment facility. Often, many facilities offer family support groups, family sessions and have local resources for family support readily available.
My top recommendation is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have local chapters across the United States. They hold support groups for family members, loved ones, caregivers and individuals with a mental health or substance use disorder. Several of their groups include “Learning to Help Your Child and Your Family,” “Supporting Recovery,” “Maintaining a Healthy Relationship,” “Taking Care of Yourself” and many more.
Groups are free, confidential and peer-run — both family-to-family and peer-to-peer for the individual experiencing the mental health and/or substance use disorder. Attending a family-to-family, peer-run group means you are among other individuals/families trained to lead groups, who also have lived experience, having been through supporting a loved one themselves. This is a place to talk openly about challenges, successes, and share wisdom, hope and strength.
Check out NAMI – Family Members and Caregivers for additional resources.
Mental Health America also has a variety of support resources for families. Visit MHA – For Family & Friends.
The American Psychological Association has tips and links to additional support options. Visit APA – Supporting a family member with serious mental illness.
SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has resources for families. Visit SAMHSA – Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders.
Having a loved one experiencing a mental health or substance use problem can be painful, overwhelming and leave you feeling helpless at times. Let me leave you with this quote:
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.” — Fred Rogers
If you have a loved one with a mental health and/or a substance use disorder, you don’t have to figure it out alone. Support for families is available.
About Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater
Windmoor Healthcare of Clearwater is a facility that provides care for those experiencing emotional problems in life. We treat psychiatric and substance use disorders as well as emotional issues.
Located in Clearwater, FL, with a warm and welcoming environment. We have offer an individualized treatment approach. This allows us to cater to each patient personal needs. We have a variety of programs that include inpatient and outpatient treatment. As well as our uniformed personnel program.
Contact Us for Treatment
If you or a loved one is in need of mental health or substance use treatment, please call to explore our treatment options at 727-322-3222. We can help.
Wittenberg E, Saada A, Prosser LA. How illness affects family members: a qualitative interview survey. Patient. 2013;6(4):257-68. doi: 10.1007/s40271-013-0030-3. PMID: 24142495; PMCID: PMC3864647.