Coping with mental illness


The family of a young adult with mental illness faces special challenges. Coping can be especially difficult when there are younger children living in the household. Younger children may feel neglected to resentful because of an older sibling with a mental illness, or they may feel somehow responsible for the person's illness and the stresses it causes in the home.

People with Schizophrenia or bipolar disorder often have their first symptoms during adolescence or young adulthood, and thus are likely to be living with their parents. When parents learn their son or daughter has a mental illness, they usually experience a range of strong emotions - shock, confusion, dismay, sadness and even anger. Parents often search frantically for answers that may not be there. They may even be in denial about their loved one's illness, or seek to blame themselves or various circumstances for the cause of the illness.

The need for belonging and peer acceptance is a major issue during young adulthood. Young adults with mental illnesses have the same needs, but finding group acceptance and fitting in may be especially hard for them. This can lead to social withdrawal and isolation, which are also symptoms of the illness itself.

By making use of a number of available services and organizations, you can help your son or daughter find a peer group in which he or she feels safe and accepted. Your loved one's case manager, doctor, or rehabilitation counselor can offer assessment and input regarding the type of group that may be appropriate. The health care professional can also help gauge your son or daughter's readiness to participate in a group.

Suggestions for group involvement include:

  • Joining an organization such as a local sports team, social club, or a temple or church-affiliated youth group
  • Group therapy can be arranged through your loved one's therapist, doctor, or case manager
  • Support groups for people with mental illness, such as clubhouses and local support groups


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