Talking To Your Kids About Mental Illness: When Mental Illness Hits Home

By Don Morgan
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

What happens when the person grappling with mental illness is someone within the walls of your own home? And what are some of the signs?

It’s one thing to help your kids understand the reality of mental illness, and to help them respond with empathy to individuals and families who may be experiencing it. But what happens when the person grappling with this issue might be someone within the walls of your own home?

First, it’s important to recognize the warning signs to look for if you, or a member of your own family, might be struggling with a mental illness. These include:                       

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
  • Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
  • Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
  • Repeatedly using drugs or alcohol
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

A few years ago Focus on the Family partnered with LifeWay Research to study the impact of mental illness on families, especially those in churches. Among other findings, our research revealed:

  • Impacted individuals and their families deal with a significant amount of shame and social stigma.
  • Many assume the afflicted person has done something to cause the illness.
  • Many parents whose children suffer from mental illness deal with denial and grief.
  • In most cases, the illness needs stabilizing before spiritual growth will take place.
  • Strong faith does not make a mental illness go away.

When Christian families are confronted with mental illness, it’s especially important to understand that the issue is not often primarily spiritual in nature.

Of course, there are times when a person’s sinful behaviors or habits can influence their mental health. However, the majority of mental health challenges are related to physical causes, such as chemical imbalances in the brain and other factors beyond the person’s control. To blame or shame someone for demonstrating symptoms of compromised mental health will certainly cause further harm.

Instead, bear in mind that God has created each one of us as physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual beings. Prayer and spiritual disciplines are certainly important when confronting the challenges of mental illness. But it’s also imperative that you or your loved one consult with a qualified physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor.

Every situation is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addressing mental illness. Nevertheless, if this is something that’s impacting your family, you need to know that you don’t have to face it alone. There is a wide range of resources available to help you navigate your reality.

As a start, you might consider getting in touch with Focus on the Family’s counseling service at 855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time). Our counseling team can offer you a complimentary, one-time consultation from a Christian perspective and provide referrals to Christian counselors in your area who can offer more extensive care. (Please be prepared to leave your contact information for a counselor or chaplain to return a call to you as soon as possible.)

© 2017 Focus on the Family.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.