Let’s take a look at a cliché that we are all familiar with: “A person is a product of their environment”
This phrase has been used, at times, to describe the potential reason why a person behaves the way that they do. At the end of this article, we hope to flip this cliché into something different: “A person is the product of their interpersonal relationships.”
Individuals rely heavily on family as first contact for most learning. The predominant impact, especially early in life, would be the roles of the parents. Research shows people that struggle with depression have a family history of this particular mental health disorder.
Providing family medical history is important when completing a Mental Health Assessment. That collected information from the Mental Health Assessment provides the clinician with symptomatology (defined as the set of symptoms characteristic of a medical condition or exhibited by a patient).
Mental health disorders such as Major Depressive Disorder and Bipolar Disorder have a matching symptomology with individuals if their parents, especially their mother, struggled with the same disorder. Even without a medical diagnosis, some indicators that a parent was struggling with their mental health can be determined through observation.
Try and think back to childhood. Did your parents sleep a lot? Maybe they argued with friends on a consistent basis or struggled maintaining friendships. You might have even observed your parents experience extreme weight loss or gain without any explanation. You may have heard them speak negatively, either constantly or at least consistently. Negative self-talk is a common symptom with many mental health struggles.
Now, raise your hand if — at one point or another in your life — you realized you deal with stressors the same way your parental figure or figures handled stressors. Social Learning Theory suggests that parents will raise kids with the same issues. Behaviors are learned. Most behaviors that you see in your children are a direct reflection of how you engage, not just with them but with the world as a whole — period!
Parents can pass down their own mental health struggles to their children simply through youngsters watching and learning through observation and imitation.
When we break down conversations in the home about mental health, genetics and biology typically are not considered, and this leads to another problem. If the narrative and stigma around mental health continues on this fear-based course, families will be passing on misinformation.
Outdated information and lack of updated resources within the community leads to problematic patterns, with no guidance of how to navigate through distress. Therapy helps individuals appropriately address adversity and struggles without projecting shame and confusion to their lineage.
If you notice that your parents’ mental health struggles have now become your own, we encourage you to reach out for help. Assistance and guidance is available, and your health, both mental and physical, will — through time — show improvement.