Hand in hand

Good relationships & strong mental health are closely linked but both need working at

Consider these two scenarios. In the first instance, what if you have a family member who is the one in five people across Australia experiencing a mental health concern?

It’s also much more likely to occur in younger people, so you might be a parent, sibling or extended family member. You might be thinking that in a role of carer, you shouldn’t have any complaints or issues yourself. Yet knowing how to support, and what is fair and reasonable to include in the role of supporter, is surprisingly complicated. You may feel you have to overlook things you find unacceptable; you might be asked to keep secrets or put up with behaviours below your bottom line.

You may be asked not to do a whole range of things in case it upsets the family member, and find yourself with a very restricted life.

At Relationships Australia NSW we see people who’ve kept their concerns to themselves, suffering in silence, believing they’re being protective. Accidently they may in fact be getting in the way of their loved one seeking help.

A carer’s own mental health can suffer, resentments can creep in. It’s really important to get information about how to help your family member and to help yourself, with many resources now online, in organisations like Relationships Australia, The Black Dog Institute, Beyond Blue and Head Space.

In the second instance, you may be having relationship difficulties yourself: maybe it’s troubled, you have questions about its future, you have problems with kids or elderly parents. Later in life, childhood issues and old family patterns can come back to bite us.

Big life changes such as a bereavement, serious illness, retirement or job loss can all take very painful tolls. You might be told to “get over it” or “look on the bright side”. Whether it’s a sudden life crisis or a long standing stressor, it can lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and stress.

Again, out of a hope that it’s just a “bad patch” or telling yourself family life is full of ups and downs, you might suffer for far too long, and sadly this can entrench problems and push them past the point where change can occur. Often at Relationships Australia we hear the comment “if only we’d got help sooner”.

Talking with a professional who’s neutral and where you are free to speak your mind, is very liberating. Sometimes getting some new information, considering the issues from new angles, can really provide some new direction and hope for the future.

Families are our greatest resource. At their best they are at our back, keeping us strong and resilient. However, they don’t operate well in isolation. Airing issues, bringing resources and new life to new and old problems, can make the difference in achieving strong mental health for all concerned.

Relationships Australia (NSW) has 70 years’ experience dedicated to reshaping lives, enhancing relationships within families, workplaces and communities. It provides counselling, mediation, and dispute resolution and relationship education. To speak to someone call 1300 364 277.

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