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…Why you should be aware of your family history

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A healthy happy family

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If a person has relatives who are mentally challenged, there is a higher chance that they themselves will have one. Much like some physical illness, such as high blood pressure or breast cancer, it is essential to be aware of a family history of mental health, as they can have a predisposition to mental illness. This does not, however, guarantee one is going to inherit the disease. Mental health is not only affected by genetics, but also by the environment which includes abuse of pharmaceutical and illicit drugs, injuries, and nutritional deficiencies.

Frugal Environment. There is less access to physical and mental health treatment from children who are raised in a lower-class family. This also manifests, unfortunately on the other spectrum where schools in wealthier areas have more funding for extracurricular activities and resources for better equipment than schools in more impoverished neighborhoods.

Living arrangements. The living arrangement depends on who pays for one’s food and shelter. For differing reasons, (e.g. divorce, orphans, house-helps, and aged parents) this affects children who frequently move from area to area, change schools, churches, and social groups. They have both different strengths and weaknesses compared to children who live in the same arena for prolonged periods of time.

Alcohol and drug use. Let it be clear, Alcohol itself is a drug. Most of the populace can relate to a drunk parent. It usually is written off as a moral flaw or a temporary coping skill. But seriously, if a parent abuses alcohol or drugs, an individual is more likely to abuse substances when they are adolescents and adults. Also, if a mother drinks or uses drugs while pregnant, it may impact many areas of a child’s life. Consequently, living in a neighborhood where one is exposed to drug use and the violence that emanates normalizes the behavior.

Violence and abuse in the home. In some of our homes, this may be an intended form of discipline. This can trend dangerously to the realm of abuse. This can be a societal problem where education on effective disciplinary methodologies is lacking. Children who are raised in a home where screaming, hitting, threats, and fear are present may show signs of hypervigilance. They then have a higher likelihood to become abusers or victims themselves because this is how they learned to treat and be treated.

Nutrition and food. Unfortunately, an environment has created were rightly or wrongly some have learned to skip a meal or two every day. This is psychologically and physically worrisome. When one is raised in a household where there is food insecurity there will be a more considerable amount of stress which will affect their physical and emotional development. Parents may have to choose between rent, feeding their family and medications. There is more likely to be an advent of diseases and poor overall health.

Attachments. Personally, I believe the concept of the “village” had saved many an African from this issue. The erosion of our “collective” approach to child-rearing culture from the “individualism” of western civilization has been severe. It has long been studied that babies and children need constant and healthy attachments to thrive. There is a mental health problem called Reactive Attachment Disorder, where an infant or young child is not exposed to a consistent caregiver. As adults, they are less likely to trust others and have difficulty forming close bonds with others. Finally, we as a culture are still struggling to make the necessary effective adjustments.

These are just some of the reasons therapists inquire about family history. Mental and physical health is affected by many things and the situation that one is exposed to have a significant impact on adulthood.


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