Family Helping Family

Why is it that family members cannot help other family members when it comes to struggles with mental illness (anxiety and depression), addiction (drugs, alcohol, eating/not eating, spending, sexing and gambling) and grief? Facts based on developments over recent years show us that more and more young adults between the ages of about 16 through 26 are losing their battles with suicide and drug over dose. The first three major addictions are alcohol, prescription drugs leading to heroin and ignoring major signs of unacknowledged grief. These are the biggies that our world is unable to ignore any longer. This should not surprise any of us that it has progressed to this point. The coping skill for any family member dealing with any of the above in themselves or other family members has been DENIAL. We can go as far back as records will allow to see that there has been anxiety and depression in human beings since there have been human beings! These two issues ebb and flow under every addiction. Denial, blaming and secrecy have been the family rules to follow until now.

If one of the parents has been willing to get help from outside sources the other has refused to allow it. There are thousands of case studies that show, most often, the entire family is “as sick as the one parent not willing to allow help from outside the family; sick as the one parent not talking”. History shows that the male population has been taught, since cavemen times, be strong, silent, hold it in, move on, ignore it, and so on. Our question now has to be “HOW?!” Again, there is no surprise that we are at the point in the world where the value of life in our coming of age young adults is very low. Suicide and drug over dose are acceptable forms of solving their emotional issues. The reason why family cannot help family is due to their own denial and defensiveness of at least one of the heads of the household, or the one who is the only head of the household.

We can no longer turn a blind eye to this situation, as we do after the latest shock about each big news story about this on CNN or any other news channel has been forgotten. The only remaining thoughts families have concerning these issues are, ‘thank God it’s not happening in my family’. Believe me, it is. I work with clients everyday where their family and friends want to ‘help’ or ‘fix’ their loved ones. If they could help them these people who are dying wouldn’t be dying. The ones who want to help have been part of the problem all along. We know that because we have blamed our own parents and siblings ourselves. There is NO BLAME! Family members are too close to the issues at hand to not get caught up in their own denial and defensiveness. Only outside sources and professionals can help. Nine times out of ten when I tell parents of adolescents this, they get mad and leave taking their kids with them. And then I see them at the funeral. This is not meant to be flippant or antagonistic. These are the facts. The only way family can help family is if they get THEIR OWN help for their own issues. Children are not listening to their parents after the age of about 12. We didn’t either, not for those golden nuggets of wisdom about how to do life. These children are watching WHAT WE ARE DOING!

Let’s start talking about this NOW!!!

Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact:

#MentalIllness #mentalhealth #addiction #depres #anx

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