Mental Health Awareness Week | Mental Health + Families

Tim Balow
October 6th, 2020

Conversations surrounding mental health and mental health awareness have shifted dramatically over the last 10-15 years.

This week represents the annual Mental Health Awareness Week presented by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). Youth Specialties had the privilege of recently interviewing John Sloss of Unbound Living.

John is a licensed Mental Health Therapist with a background in youth and family ministry. John shares with us some unique perspectives answering some of the big questions related to the different levels of mental health as it relates to students, families, youth workers, and churches.

Each day this week, we’ll zero in with John on a specific relationship with mental health. Today is Mental Health + Families.

What are the most common mental health struggles in families?

Discord in the family system is one of the most common issues of concern that parents bring up to me.  What once was a peaceful household is now full of arguments, fights and struggles. 

Parents who used to get along great with their children are now scratching their heads at their adolescent. 

To note, there is a degree of normalcy in this originating in the need each youth has to create autonomy and individuation which is amplified by the neurological and biological changes these young people are experiencing.

One other common mental health struggles is the individual identities of parents.  With students growing up and no longer need the same level of their (parents’) care, I find many parents develop a type of identity crisis. 

You have been a caregiver for over ten years, and now the subject of your care is saying they no longer need it (at least as much).  

What are the best practices for fostering mental health in families?

Healthy dialogue.  Healthy dialogue that is an invitation (not a demand) and initiated from the parent is so important to adolescents.

This type of dialogue reminds them that they have a safe place in their home (even if they act as if they no longer need it). 

A key ingredient to this type of dialogue is trust.  

Trust that parents will be their for their children and delight in them regardless of their behavior and choices. 

What’s the best way to show care with a parent or sibling who may struggle with mental health?

If a parent or sibling is wrestling with a category of mental illness, it is important to offer resources for the other children (and the other parent!).

The best resource I know would be the resource of a mental health therapist.  If nothing else, they can offer education around the mental illness and tools for engaging, processing and coping with a family member in this situation.

What are are 2-3 questions a family can ask to gauge their “collective” mental health?

Honestly, if you are at the point of needing two or three questions to assess your collective mental health, seek the services of a mental health therapist.  They will be able to best assess the state of the family system. 

I’ll sum this question up this way:  Trust your gut. 

What does your gut say about the current state of the family system? 

Does any discord being experienced feel normal? 

Follow the answer of your gut, it is far more intuitive than we give it credit for. 

Tim Balow

Youth Specialties exists to elevate the role of youth ministry and the youth worker to grow the faith of the next generation.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.