It is one thing when the individual suffers from a mental illness themselves. It is something else entirely when a parent or loved one is going through a similar turmoil by watching that individual suffer. Attempting to help the person suffering from anxiety is exhausting in every shape and form. Mental, physical and emotional exhaustion is present with a parent who has a young adult with a mental illness.
I think that one of the biggest problems that parents face in dealing with a young adult who is suffering from a mental illness, is the predicament of guilt and blame. Parents often question whether they could have done something differently along the way, to have avoided this issue. Perhaps they weren’t enough of a support system. Perhaps they should have listened to them more, when they were worried about something, or feeling sad. This is where my advice comes in for parents in how to deal with their young adult who is themselves, dealing with a mental illness. I have broken this down into four segments
Focus on the positives
If the parent themselves are downtrodden, it will be a difficult approach for everyone. It’s hard to approach things with a good mindset. However, from personal experience, when your loved ones are upbeat for you, it significantly helps. Having someone gently remind you that they are there and these hard times will pass helps in so many ways.
Recognize small accomplishments and acknowledge them
Depression and anxiety can prevent someone from living their lives fully—they stray away from hobbies and seeing loved ones. Perhaps if the individual loved to paint and didn’t continue to due to depression, the parent will feel responsible for leading them back to that lost passion. Let them return on their own. When they do, that when the parent can be supportive and share their passion.
Be an active listener
Often times, it can be extremely difficult to find the right words to comfort someone with a mental illness. The best thing that a parent can do, is to simply listen and be a shoulder to lean on. This will allow the person suffering to feel like they are not alone. If you personally are not suffering from depression, but your child is, it’s challenging to see where they are coming from. When I was going through a depression, it was a huge release to simply discuss with my parents how I was feeling that particular day.
Feeling anxious and having anxiety are two very different things. Being depressed and feeling sad due to a poor grade on an assignment are also two very different things. Society is making strides to how to better approach mental illness, but there is still a lot of research to be done. Having a father with depression, my mother used some of her time to understand exactly what depression was. This allowed her to understand why my father had unexplained mood swings, or why he had a difficult time completing simple day-to-day tasks. When your young adult discusses that they are anxious for no reason, it helps immensely to tap into researching what their plight is. Perhaps even discussing with a counselor to simply bounce off ideas would be beneficial.
One other important point to consider is to not let yourself get burnt out when helping your young adult deal with a particular mental illness. This is a struggle for all involved, and it is important to take care of each other and yourself.
By: Kristen Bloch, Anxiety In Teens Contributor