Harvard Mental Health Letter

Educating and empowering families

The Family-to-Family program helps people cope better with a loved one's mental illness.

Mental health clinicians undergo rigorous training in their fields before treating patients with psychiatric disorders. Family members, on the other hand, may find themselves suddenly thrust into crisis situations with a loved one, struggling to understand an illness they know little about — all while dealing with their own powerful emotions.

The result, not surprisingly, is that families often do not know how to respond effectively when a loved one develops a mental illness. Anger, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions — reinforced by society's continuing stigma about mental illness — may hobble families' abilities to support patients. And while clinicians would like to better involve and support family members, doing so can become a daunting task in the real world of conflicting demands of patient privacy, overbooked schedules, and insurance paperwork.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »