April 6, 2020

Mental Illness

Mental health challenges are increasing in society. This doesn’t just hurt individuals; it also impacts families. Starting in 2007, suicide rates have been steadily increasing for all ages.1 Some age groups are struggling more than others. 

Generation “Z” or “iGen” (those born from 1995 to 2010) have higher rates of anxiety and depression than previous generations at that same age.2 

There are multiple reasons for this increase. At the heart of suicide is hopelessness. When an individual suffers a loss, set-back or disappointment and there is no hope that life will improve, suicide becomes a way out. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, males are more likely to complete a suicide. White males 65 and older are the highest risk group for suicide, mostly due to isolation, the perception life can’t get better, access to lethal means, and the use of alcohol which lowers inhibition to end one’s life.1 

Today’s young people have grown up in a different world than previous generations. They spent their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone and social media. This has led to increased isolation and pressure to fit in. Parents have done a good job protecting this generation from the dangers youth often get into during adolescence, but that protection stopped them from gaining confidence to face life’s inevitable challenges.   

When a family member experiences an illness, it impacts the rest of the immediate family.  Families don’t have to struggle alone. Even though the mental health stigma is real, there is help out there.  

  • Counseling isn’t just for the individual with mental illness, but also the family.  Counselors are typically willing to work with the family in order to help treat the person with the illness, if the patient is willing. 

  • If your family member is on medication, the prescriber may not get the whole picture if they only talk to the patient.  Families have invaluable information to share that is typically well received by the medical profession. 

  • We also have our Heavenly Father who knows what we are going through.  When we are at our lowest, sometimes we feel more disconnected from God than ever, but the Bible reassures us He is always there. 

Family members are not responsible for recovery but can provide the necessary support and encouragement in ways that no one else can.  

  • Educate yourself about the illness so you know how best to provide support. 

  • Get outside to enjoy fresh air and sunlight. Go for a walk together. Play some sports. 

  • Be understanding of spiritual struggles. Mental illness can have a bazaar influence on spirituality — from feeling abandoned by God to thinking you are the “Messiah.”  

  • If you notice major emotional and behavioral changes, ask about your loved one’s desire to end their life. You won’t be putting the idea in his head. If concerned, take your loved one to your local emergency room for an examination. Remove any lethal means, if necessary. 


1National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) (2017). Suicide. Retrieved from, accessed March 4, 2020. 

2Twenge, J. “iGen: Why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for adulthood and what that means for the rest of us.“ New York, NY: Simon and Schuster (2017). 

Alina M. Baltazar, PhD, MSW, LMSW, CFLE, CCTP-I, is the MSW Program director and associate professor in the School of Social Work, and co-associate director for the Institute for the Prevention of Addictions at Andrews University. She also is a psychotherapist who treats mental illness in individuals and families.