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Unsupportive Family Members: What to do if you suffer from a mental illness without much support

Updated on February 3, 2021
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Rosemary is author of six books on mental health and inspirational poetry. She is a motivational speaker and a volunteer peer advocate.

Hello reader :)

This is part of the My Bipolar Life series: Overcoming Unsupportive Family Members.

A huge factor in how welll I am doing, or how well I feel, is who I am surrounded with or rather who I surround myself with...

In all the years of my bipolar diagnosis, ages 16-35, I have had a close connection with my family- though it has not always been supportive or positive.

I have seen many friends with mental illness receive variations of support from alot, none, and some. While many got lots of support including gifts and money to make life easier, some did not and which is better I don't know. In some cases, it's good to not get much support financially if that makes you rise above the illness and get a job, in some other cases, the individual is so handicapped that it would only help to make them more comfortable.


Well,first off, it's often really difficult to rise above criticism when you're depressed. But you can do it. For years I was criticised for taking my medicine (am still are) by either concerned or confused family members. This can hurt if you don't understand why they reallydon't understand. If they take some time to do a little research, then it makes it easier on everyone. Or they could go to a family meeting with you to your therapist. In the end though you will learn that it's not really important what they think, but what you think and what's best for you.


  • Acknowledge your family may have a harder time accepting your illness than you do.
  • Acknowledge they are only human and may have alot of confusion or even anger at the illness (not you), and need to give it some time.

It may help to say to them "I really would appreciate your support, it would really mean alot to me."


What you're going through is painful. It's only natural that a supportive family or network of friends is what you need to recover. Often times it's a place to go and receive support and theraputic groups- you may know them as "day programs" to receive the kind of support and structure you need to help overcome the demons and difficulties of anxiety, depression, bipolar and mental illnesses.


  • A caring and talented therapist is important, one who listens well, respects your needs, and helps you overcome obstacles
  • Stick to your treatment at all times
  • Do everything you can in your recovery for you
  • Be proud of your accomplishments


Things can change dramatically over the years. You may be starting out or just diagnosed with depression and think ' this sucks' but over time you could be on your way to a full recovery! Over the years it is common for family members to become more suportive also. Remember that your are accomplishing huge hurdles! Give yourself a round of applause. When you're trying everyday to improve, and develop skills, in combination with the 'right' medicine, you can really expect good results.


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