A mental health illness is one that can affect the way that a person thinks or feels and can also affect their mood. When someone has a mental health illness, they may have difficulty in relating to others and with daily functioning. Mental health illnesses will affect everyone differently and it’s important to understand that the affect that the illness has may be different depending on what is going on in that person’s life and what can aggravate their illness (National Alliance on Mental Illness, 2017). There are many mental health diagnoses and depending on the specific diagnosis, will depend on the best types of support that are needed for the individual.
Part of the treatment for an individual who has been diagnosed with a mental health illness is including the family. This is important for several reasons. The family members can provide encouragement with treatment plans, improve outcomes for psychological and pharmacological treatments, decrease the number/duration of inpatient admissions to the hospital, and increase the quality of life for the individual (Easson, Giacco, Dirik, & Priebe, 2014). As important as it is to incorporate the family in the care of the individual with a mental health illness, this often doesn’t happen the way that it is expected and this often cause more issues.

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The barriers to incorporating the family in providing care for the individual with a mental health illness can be significant. First and foremost, caring for an individual with a mental illness can prove difficult for the family members to be able to balance their support for the individual and ensuring that they care for themselves (National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 2017). Other issues that present as barriers to family participation in the care of individuals with mental health issues include the perception of a lack of privacy for the individual (now their family would know what was going on with them), being hassled about the choices that they make (such as alcohol and substance use), and the possibility of losing control of their finances or possessions (due to extensive needs of treatment) (Cohen, Drapalski, Glynn, Medoff, Fang, & Dixon, 2013).

It is important prior to discussing the family’s involvement in the treatment of the individual with a mental health illness that the team caring for the individual first discuss whether or not they want their family members involved. If the individual doesn’t want the family involved, it is best to not bring them in to the treatment plan, however, if the individual does want them involved, it is important to discuss any concerns that the individual may have upfront, so that there aren’t any issues that come up later during their care.

  • Cohen, A., Drapalski, A., Glynn, S., Medoff, D., Fang, L., & Dixon, L. (2013). Preferences for Family Involvement in Care Among Consumers With Serious Mental Illness. Psychiatric Services. 64, 257-263. Retrieved from: http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/abs/10.1176/appi.ps.201200176
  • Eassom, E., Giacco, D., Dirik, A., & Priebe, S. (2014). Implementing family involvement in the treatment of patients with psychosis: a systematic review of facilitating and hindering factors. BMJ. 4(10). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006108. Retrieved from: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/4/10/e006108.citation-tools
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Mental Health Conditions. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Supporting Recovery. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Supporting-Recovery