"In short, what Mom thinks matters." That was the comment from Dr. Fred Markowitz, a professor from Northern Illinois University in releasing an interesting study on June 8.
Markowitz and his colleagues looked at how the attitude of family members toward mental illness impacts the mentally ill relatives.The researchers found that, while family members often provide critical support, they also can have attitudes that hurt the recovery of their family member. And Mom's attitude is the key.
The study looked at 129 mothers of adult children with schizophrenia over an 18-month period.
"We found that when those with mental illness exhibited greater level of initial symptoms, lower self-confidence and quality of life, their mothers tended to view them in more stigmatized terms ... for example, seeing them as incompetent, unpredictable and unreliable," Markowitz told Psych Central.
When mothers held these views, their children were most likely to see themselves as incompetent, unpredictable, unreliable, etc., the study found. When they saw themselves this way, their symptoms got worse, their confidence dropped and their quality of life lowered.
Now, there's a little bit of chicken and egg here. And any advice on how to deal with consistently unreliable behavior without coming to view the mentally ill person as unreliable was, of course, not offered. In fact, the researchers said that some of the problem mom behavior came from mom trying to help and being "well meaning." (I have now deleted four different sentences that were filled with sarcasm from this paragraph, so I'll just move on.)
But the research does point out that stigma actually seems to make the illness worse. So the old advice to stay as positive as possible and to allow your loved one to do all they can on their own seems sound.