Family communication and mental health

Dr Eduardo López Navarro | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: La Red Hispana

Did you know that a conversation can be the first step to solving mental health problems and getting help? Experts recognize that for us Latinos, it is not always easy to share emotions and feelings with members of our families, including healthcare professionals.

But poor communication within the family often leads to serious problems. Without communication, the ability to identify the symptoms of what we are feeling and the ability to express it within the family is essential in being able to identify symptoms, report problems, receive help and solve those problems.

Furthermore, I think it is very true to say that most of us Hispanics lack a vocabulary of feelings. Saying “I’m sad,” “you hurt my feelings,” “I feel depressed,” “I’m bad,” are not easy phrases to share with the family and are not promoted.

Often times, sharing your mood with others makes the speaker uncomfortable and the listener incompetent.

However, expression through courage and anger, is favored and promoted. Many times, being angry is representative of a strength.

Though this is completely false. Anger is a secondary feeling, which is covering unhealed emotional wounds. Speaking at the level of anger is not communication, but a way to avoid effective communication.

If we do not learn to develop a vocabulary of feelings, we will not be able to understand what we are feeling, and therefore, we will not be able to express how we feel and ask for help.

My recommendation:

Focus on promoting communication based on emotions and feelings.

Teach your family members to express what they feel, starting with the word “I,” immediately followed by an adjective that describes what you feel.

If we can express what we have inside at the level of feelings, we will be able to promote effective communication.

Once this vocabulary of feelings has been created, we can express what we feel, be it depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, suicidal ideas, or any other situation. And we can count on the support of each of the family members, and finding the help of mental health professionals will be an easier task.

Clear communication is key in correcting mental health problems. Whatever it is, never be afraid to talk about your feelings with your family. Never feel afraid to express your emotions, much less, never stop to ask for help.