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Research your family mental health history

Dim Hou

Are you aware of the health issues that exist in your family? Illnesses like cancer and heart disease have well established hereditary markers. And knowing this history can be very valuable for taking preventive measures. But did you know that common types of anxiety and depressive disorders also have strong genetic indicators that too many of us have not asked our parents or grandparents about.

Just as with physical health concerns, mental health issues have preventive measures that can be taken. And initiating proactive steps to offset a mental illness that exists in past generations of your family may prevent these illnesses, or at the very least push back their onset and reduce the virulence with which you or your children feel them.

In fact, the latest research in biology shows that our habits and emotions can impact us so deeply that they cause genetic changes, which are then passed down to future generations. Worse still is the long-known information that attempts to self-medicate using alcohol and other drugs places our children at greater risk of addictive behaviors and makes them less able to cope with the situations that they will encounter in their own lives for decades to come.

These conversations are never easy. But knowing your family health history – both physical and mental – can help to end the cycle that keeps the next generation from having a better life than we did. And no matter the generation, every parent wants that for their children.

Links to mental health resources are at MHANational.org.

Eric Litwiller has served the south central Kansas community through his work at Mental Health Association since September of 2017. As Director of Development and Communications, he is charged with seeking the private investment required to raise awareness of the scope of mental health concerns throughout the region in an effort to eliminate the unfair stigma associated with mental illness.