Half of all American families must manage a severe mental health-related crisis, study finds - Social Media Explorer
Half of all American families must manage a severe mental health-related crisis, study finds
Half of all American families must manage a severe mental health-related crisis, study finds

4 in 10 families say a family member’s mental health struggles negatively impacted their own health. Learn how to navigate and overcome these challenges with resilience and support.


There’s a hidden mental health crisis growing behind closed doors, and it’s affecting one people group worse than others: family caregivers. 

Behind every person who struggles with their mental health is a support system of family and friends who care for them. Sometimes this caring can take a toll. Caregivers report higher levels of anxiety and depression than non-caregivers. 

It’s heartbreaking to watch someone you love go through mental health issues. Even though you don’t blame them for their struggles or regret helping them, caring for someone struggling with their mental health is exhausting. It’s important to be there for friends and family going through a tough time, absolutely, but by denying yourself rest and healing, you’re exacerbating mental health symptoms in yourself. 

Most families deal with a major mental health crisis 

In times of mental health crisis, families often face challenging circumstances. It can be overwhelming and distressing, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many families have encountered similar situations and have found ways to navigate through them. Let’s take a look at some statistics that shed light on how families cope during these difficult times:

  • Twenty-eight percent of all Americans say that their family had to take a painful step, like institutionalizing a family member because they were a threat to themselves or others. This decision can be heart-wrenching, but it’s essential to prioritize the safety and well-being of your loved one.
  • Twenty-one percent said they or a family member had a drug overdose requiring an ER visit. Substance abuse often co-occurs with mental health issues, and seeking immediate medical attention is crucial in such situations.
  • Fourteen percent said they or a family member ran away from home and lived on the streets due to mental health issues. Homelessness resulting from mental health struggles can be incredibly challenging. Connecting with local resources and support services can help provide safety and stability.
  • Sixteen percent said a family member experienced homelessness because of a mental health problem. It’s heartbreaking to see a loved one without a place to call home. Accessing community resources, such as shelters and mental health outreach programs, can offer assistance and guidance.
  • Eight percent said they or a family member had a severe eating disorder requiring hospitalization or in-person treatment. Eating disorders are serious conditions that require professional intervention. Seeking specialized care and treatment can lead to a path of recovery and healing.
  • Twenty-six percent said they or a family member engaged in cutting or self-harm behaviors. Self-harm can be a coping mechanism for emotional distress. Encouraging open communication and seeking help from mental health professionals can provide healthier strategies for dealing with emotional pain.
  • Lastly, 16% had a family member who died from suicide. Losing a loved one to suicide is an unimaginable tragedy. Remember that support is available, and reaching out to mental health professionals and support groups can help navigate the grieving process.

While these statistics highlight the challenges families may face, they also emphasize the importance of reaching out for support. Seeking professional help, such as therapy or counseling, can be a lifeline during such circumstances.

The Impact a Mentally Ill Family Member Has on Individuals

Helping a mentally ill family member can have a profound impact on individuals who are tasked with providing care and support. The emotional and physical demands of caretaking can lead to burnout and take a toll on one’s own mental health. It’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of burnout to address these challenges effectively. Here are some symptoms individuals may experience as a result of caretaking for a mentally ill family member:

  1. Fatigue and Exhaustion: Constantly caring for a mentally ill family member can drain one’s energy reserves, leading to persistent fatigue and exhaustion.
  2. Irritability and Anxiety: The stress and responsibilities of caretaking can cause individuals to feel constantly on edge, leading to increased irritability and anxiety.
  3. Social Withdrawal: Caretaking duties may limit an individual’s time for self-care and social activities, resulting in withdrawal from social connections and a sense of isolation.
  4. Changes in Sleep Patterns: The ongoing worry and demands of a mentally ill family member can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep.
  5. Neglecting Personal Needs: Individuals may prioritize the needs of their mentally ill family member over their own, neglecting self-care activities and personal needs.
  6. Feelings of Guilt and Resentment: Balancing the responsibilities of caretaking and personal life can evoke feelings of guilt and resentment towards the mentally ill family member for the impact it has on one’s own well-being.
  7. Physical Health Issues: Chronic stress and neglect of personal health can contribute to physical health problems, such as headaches, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.

Over four in ten families say a family member’s mental health crisis had a major impact on their own mental health or their family’s relationships. One in five say it had a major impact on the family’s financial situation.

It’s essential for individuals who find themselves in the role of a caretaker to prioritize their own mental health and seek support. Remember, addressing your own mental health needs is crucial for maintaining your well-being and continuing to support your loved one effectively.


In conclusion, the findings of this new study shed light on the widespread impact of severe mental health-related crises within American families. The statistics reveal the magnitude of the challenges faced by individuals navigating the complexities of institutionalization, substance abuse emergencies, homelessness, and other distressing situations within their own homes. Though these numbers may be disheartening, it is important to remember that there is hope. These findings serve as a wake-up call for society to prioritize mental health support, destigmatize seeking help, and increase access to resources and services. By working together, we can foster a society that values mental well-being and offers the support needed to navigate through these crises. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Help is available, and there are individuals and organizations committed to helping you live your brightest life. 

For more information on mental health, check out resource centers like NAMI, Resources to Recover, and Mental Health America

To find a therapist near you, we recommend Lifebulb Counseling and Therapy or Sondermind (online therapy only). 

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About the Author

Sitetrail Research Team

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