Growing Up with Mental Illness in the Family: Understanding Children’s Emotional Responses

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[Music] thank you hello Dr Seema Segal so you are a practicing psychiatrist in Fremont can you give me a little bit of introduction about you sure um rupali it's so good to do this again with you I'm a psychiatrist in practice in Fremont and I have over about 25 years of practice dealing with a wide range of mental health disorders from The Chronic severely ill people who have schizophrenia bipolar disorder severe depression with or without psychosis all the way to people with dealing with anxiety generalized social anxiety and everything in between so I'm so happy to have this opportunity to educate and share some of my experiences with your viewers thank you so much so today we were going to tackle some of the stories that have been shared on a platform and one of the questions I had about growing up in a family where one of the family member or a parent or a sibling has some kind of a mental illness so what are some of the emotional responses that a child when they grow up in this kind of a household what are they feeling you know this is um a really really important topic rupali because I see patients who either as youngsters have grown up in our family where one parent or a family member has suffered you know a major mental illness and they themselves have then grown up you know to have um sort of difficulties and challenges with their own mental health as they you know went into adult life but as a child some of the emotions that you know they can feel is a spectrum that can include fear confusion worry uh feelings of guilt feelings of Shame not understanding really what is happening uh within the family uh within the family system because you know one family member it could be a parent it could be a sibling is suffering from a major mental illness which is a really disruptive event in the family and uh you know depending on the age of the child when they are exposed to this the responses can also vary because if you think about it you know the maximum time of brain development is happening till the age of five and at that time the most essential um you know things that the growing toddler needs is bonding strong attachments continuity consistency dependability predictability of the parental figure being there and when this is disrupted it can lead to a variety of mental health challenges if it is an older child if it's an adolescent at that age what you need is you want parental approval you want reassurances you want structure you want sort of the uh you know the accolades from your parents that you're doing a good job because you're building your self-esteem and self-worth in this time so uh you know depending where you are in your own development when you have to face something like this in the family the responses can vary yeah wow that is I mean you know the stories that we have done I think it's really important to hear what you just said so even for a partner or a spouse who is supporting um a partner who has mental illness right how do they take care of themselves you know how do they keep their sanity and what are the signs that they need help if it yeah um you know this is an important question because again um you know unfortunately in this country and in many others there is not the concept of treating the whole family you know as one unit because you can imagine how disruptive it is for every member of the family and the you know family system is a very closed system so stress in one part of that system automatically impacts every other you know piece of that system and the the spouse or the well parent you know if you will uh ends up having uh to carry double the burden of not just taking care of you know his or her spouse who is struggling or suffering and needing their help but also making sure that the children are doing fine and keeping their school and activities going along with their job because Financial insecurity becomes a real issue when there is Parental Mental Health challenges so as a result of this there is a high risk of caregiver burnout there is a high risk of you know the well-parent not even being aware that they need help and support of their own so some of the you know signs to watch out for are lack of sleep irritability you know snapping at the parent or the spouse absenteeism from from work because you're too tired to really show up at work difficulty focusing attending concentrating on your work tasks uh sometimes the men will resort to substance use or maladaptive ways to deal with this amount of stress so anything that signals to you that you are not at your Baseline not where you are used to normally finding yourself every day is something to be aware of and so to have you know supports for yourself in place having a trusted friend or family member it could be you know a friend at work it could be a family member here or in India even someone from your religious community sometimes can step up to you know help and for that it's really important to talk about your struggles because people can't help you if they don't know what's happening with you yeah yeah no I think I totally agree about talking about it and I think that's why we are also creating this whole platform about sharing stories so that really validates it let me ask you one more question so that you talked about the wellspouse but what about the children right as they are growing growing up what do they carry over when they become an adult right like if they have a parent like what are you know thought let's talk about a little bit of impact on these children as an adult okay you know that again is an important uh point because uh I always feel that a penny of prevention is better than an ounce of you know of cure and you want to come in and prevent mental illness from occurring in the first place so you know mental hygiene mental health is not the absence of mental illness it's about what we do every single day to keep ourselves mentally well and when a child is growing up in an environment where there is not Clarity of what is happening you know around them all they can see is that there is unpredictability they don't understand what's happening there are difficult emotions you know in the home parents look worried uh nobody's talking about where the worry is coming from they see a change in behavior in their parent or family member and yet they have to continue pretending everything is okay when they're outside of the house because they feel ashamed they have a sense of guilt and when there isn't open communication the fear generates a feeling in the child that in some way they must have been responsible for the distress the family is experiencing so this leads to low self-esteem it leads to a sense of you know low self-worth and you can see at this child you know goes on to become an adult not only are they under sort of you know have the risk of inheriting the mental illness because there is you know there are mental illnesses like schizophrenia bipolar disorder that have a very high uh genetic uh predisposition and so they have that they also have you know they're facing adverse childhood experiences their environment is not conducive to uh you know to giving them that sense of self that they can you know take into adult life with them so they are more prone a third of the children of parents who have a serious mental illness are at risk of developing a mental illness themselves so you know anxiety depression low self-esteem social anxiety all of these are you know things to watch out for as this child becomes an adult on the other hand though you know if there are um resources and there is help that is put in place for this child you know they are we do explain to them what's happening we uh we sort of let them talk about their fears we give them answers that they're looking for we Define their role in what is happening in the family that can build actually resilience growth we see that these children actually grow up to be more compassionate more empathic and end up being much more sensitive parents themselves to children when they have them so again it's really important in how we deal with the children as they are going through the stress themselves so when you talk about this thing right when you say VV as in professionals right the professional field of psychiatrists and the healthcare providers right that's what you mean the counselors you know the yes I mean that primarily but you know a society where there is so much stigma attached uh to talking about mental health issues oftentimes it ends up being family members that step in and have to be that you know de facto counselor for the child because access to someone trained to do this often doesn't happen yeah and so again you know if the parents are really sort of engaged in dealing with this major stress in the family to then enlist the help of a trusted adult which could again be a sports coach it could be you know a priest it could be a family member but some Dependable responsible trusted adult who can step in and be that sounding board and just help the child sort through what is happening it could be a teacher or counselor at school even yeah yeah great I'm so glad that you could answer you know I think it's a much needed thing whenever you talk to somebody about this everybody has like Okay so this person in my family has it but we don't know how to deal with it so I think with your insights I think we will be able to make it a little bit more uh you know resource friendly uh would you also share some of the resource at the end of the video uh sure sure I will and you know rupali I could not agree more how important this uh topic really is because you know we um talk about the stigma in sort of you know in a way that the person suffering from the mental illness is the one who is feeling stigmatized and trying to protect themselves from feeling stigmatized from society or you know even within their family or community and you know I really feel for the parents that I see in my practice because I'll have mothers who um you know have a major Mental Health issue that they are dealing with they are in treatment and yet the fear of being an unfit mother is somehow even stronger and more powerful than the stigma of having a mental illness and so a lot of times you know they will they will not talk about it just from the fear of you know Legal Services child protective services you know the school system sort of picking up that something is amiss in the house and they may be separated from their children and and you know I want to really emphasize the fact that even though these mental health disorders you know a lot of people don't know the details and how severe they can be I just want to Clearly say that they are treatable you know they have symptoms which when untreated can lead to you know a lot of disruptive behavior and a lot of symptoms that are hard to understand but if you educate yourself and help this person get the treatment they need oftentimes I would say about you know 70 80 percent of the time we can go back to a very healthy family again yeah so the timely intervention is really the key it is it is yeah great thank you so much Dr Seema Segal appreciate your time you're welcome rupali and look forward to chatting again with you thank you [Music] thank you foreign

More Information

In this video, Dr. Seema Segal, a practicing psychiatrist with over 25 years of experience, discusses the emotional responses of children who grow up in a household where a family member has a mental illness. Depending on the age of the child, the responses can vary from fear, confusion, worry, guilt, and shame. Dr. Segal explains how disruptions in the family system can affect the child's development and the challenges they may face in adulthood. She also addresses how partners and spouses who are supporting someone with mental illness can take care of themselves and recognize when they need help. #mentalhealth #mentalillnesssupport #family #children #emotions #support #selfcare #partners #mentalhealthmatters #breakingthestigma #familyconversations #empoweringconversations

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