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Parenting an Adult Child With a Mental Illness

You love your daughter, and you would do anything to ensure that she is happy and healthy. But when it comes to mental illnesses, devotion and compassion may not be enough. If you fear that your daughters mental illness is destroying family, please know that help is available. You may not be able to cure your child, but you can play a vital role in connecting her with the care that can improve her life.

Mental Illnesses Among Young Adults

Early adulthood can be an important time for people who have mental health concerns.

A January 2018 article in the British Journal of Psychiatry reported that most adults who have a mental health disorder begin to experience symptoms by age 26. In many cases, young adults who are diagnosed with a mental illness have been living with symptoms since they were adolescents.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 8.8 million young adults ages 18-25 in the United States have struggled with mental illness and 5.1 million have become addicted to alcohol or another drug. Unfortunately, SAMHSA data also indicates that 42% of young adults with mental illnesses and 87% of those with addictions have not yet received care.

As these statistics indicate, if you are concerned that your daughter’s mental illness is destroying your family, you are far from alone.

How You Can Help Your Adult Child

Personalization is the key to helping an adult child or anyone else who has a mental illness. 

In clinical terms, this means that treatment should reflect the specific ways that each person has been impacted by their mental health disorder. In terms of a parent trying to help their adult child, this means that you should use your unique knowledge of your daughter to help keep her safe and convince her to get help.

Educate Yourself

You are an expert on your daughter. You are probably not an expert on the mental health disorder that she has developed. The more you understand about her condition, the better prepared you will be to offer meaningful support. 

If your daughter has been assessed and diagnosed by a doctor or other expert, this professional can be an excellent source of information. You may also want to visit the websites of reputable organizations, and consult with either local or national mental health advocacy groups. 

Explore Your Options

In addition to learning about your daughter’s disorder, you should also familiarize yourself with the scope of treatment options that are available to her. Depending on the severity of her struggles, she may benefit from residential treatment, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), or an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Exploring treatment options is another time when your unique insights about your daughter can be extremely valuable. There is no such thing as one perfect type of mental health treatment. As you evaluate healthcare providers in your area, you should focus on finding the facility that seems to be the best fit for your daughter. Consider her needs, strengths, goals, and preferences to help you find the ideal place.

Talk to Your Child

Having conversations with an adult child who has a mental illness can be difficult, but it is necessary. These discussions can be opportunities for you to share your concerns and emphasize your support. They can also help you gain a better understanding of your daughter’s mindset. 

Is your daughter aware of the degree to which her symptoms have disrupted her life (and your family’s overall well-being)? Does she respond to questions with anger or aggression? Is she willing to see a doctor or consider entering a treatment program? Her attitude about these and other topics can guide your future efforts to keep her safe and get her into treatment. 

Establish Healthy Boundaries

The desire to protect your adult child can easily morph from support to codependency. Making excuses for your daughter, shielding her from the consequences of her actions, or intervening in other ways can actually exacerbate her struggles and place additional strain on your family.

Be firm about the types of behaviors that you will not tolerate. If your daughter becomes aggressive or violent, be prepared to protect yourself. If you feel that she has been taking advantage of your kindness or compassion, you can rectify that by clearly defining the limits of your support. 

Once you have set these boundaries, you need to back them up. As we said about having regular talks with your child, maintaining boundaries is both difficult and necessary

Set Reasonable Expectations

Your daughter may not have grown into the adult that you expected her to be. That does not mean that she has failed. Nor does it mean that you have. Blaming her or yourself for how her life has turned out thus far is at best a counterproductive endeavor. At worst, it can drive a wedge between the two of you at a time when she most needs your support.

Recovering from a mental illness is typically a long-term process. The day your daughter agrees to get help is an important step. But it’s far from the last one she will need to take. Establish reasonable expectations for her progress, be prepared for challenges and setbacks along the way, and understand that her ability to heal is not something that you can control.

Get Help for Yourself

If you are afraid that your daughters mental illness is destroying family, you may be hesitant to discuss your problems with friends or relatives. Resist this urge to isolate yourself. 

First, struggling with a mental illness (or having a child who has developed a mental health concern) is nothing to be ashamed of. Second, the simple act of talking to someone you trust can help you manage your stress levels. It may also help you determine which steps you should take next.

Getting help for yourself may also include making an appointment with a therapist or counselor. You cannot be the best source of support for your adult child if you are neglecting your own mental health needs. 

Find Mental Health Treatment in Nashville, TN

Arbor Wellness is a trusted provider of life-changing care for adults who have been struggling with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and a wide range of other mental health concerns. At our mental health treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, your daughter can receive quality clinical care and comprehensive, personalized support from a team of dedicated professionals. 

To learn more about our programs and services, or to schedule a free assessment for your daughter, please visit our admissions page or call our center today.

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