Mental health starts at the beginning. The infant coming home and becoming attached to the primary care provider is where mental health starts. The quality of the attachment is felt by modern brain researchers to be one of the key determinants of future mental health for the child.
Unfortunately, if the child sustains adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) including trauma, separation and abuse, then there are likely to be resulting mental health concerns and challenges.
So planning for mental health for the family starts on day 1 of the infant’s journey in attachment and brain development.
If mental health challenges do arise, then the quality of socially and emotionally authentic relationships within the family are the key to helping the person with the mental health challenge.
The analogy often used in mental health involves the use of the oxygen mask on the airplane. The first thing to do on the airplane is for the parent to put on the oxygen mask and then the parent can help the child.
The parents have to take care of their mental health first in order to help the child. The parents must be emotionally healthy in order to help the child.
The family system is an important part of our work at RCM Health Consultancy. In family systems work, we look at the existing narrative within the family system.
The narrative is what the parent’s think. It is their assumptions about the child. If the problem has become entrenched and the parents have suffered with the problem for a decade or more, they might assume that nothing can be done. And then nothing will be done.
We recently spoke with the parents of a 30 year old child assumed to have “failure to launch”. The parent’s narrative and assumptions were that the child was not capable of becoming a productive and purposeful individual. When we offered to help with the narrative and assumptions, the parents said no thanks. Nothing will change because of their assumptions which stopped any possible progress from being made.
If the narrative and assumptions can be unpacked and changed and a new more positive and optimistic outlook is adopted , then the ensuing changes in the conversation and actions might in fact work to help the child. At least, an effort will be directed at changing in a positive and healthful way.
Challenges exist at this stage of implementing change, as well. Having the parents look at their own enabling behaviours is very difficult. It is hard work to change what is unexplored. Even if the parents had the best intentions in raising the child, things can go wrong.
Once the parents have examined their enabling behaviours, and then changed the conversation and their actions including introducing consequences , then things might get worse before things get better. That is to be expected. So put on your seat belts for the bumpy ride and be patient.
This describes the family systems work that we do at RCM Health Consultancy when families commit to work with our teams in helping a family member with a mental health problem.
RCM Health Consultancy Inc.
647 350 5500