Family Support | NAMI

Being a family member of a health care professional can be exceptionally challenging. You worry about their health and well-being, as well as how their challenging career impacts your family.

Long and sometimes unpredictable work hours often mean they miss out on family events or special occasions, holidays and sleep. Because of this, you may manage a great deal of family responsibilities on your own. You might also notice the impact the job has on your loved one’s mental health and how that affects your family and homelife.

These stresses can add up and become overwhelming, leaving you wondering how to support your loved one, your family and yourself. It is important to have resources and support.

Having social support can help you manage stress and worry, but that support can be hard to find if your friends and extended family don’t understand you and your loved one’s experiences. Joining a support network for families of health care professionals can be a great way to connect with others who are familiar with the unique challenges of the health care professional culture.

If you don’t have an existing support network, you may find it rewarding to begin one for families of health care professionals in your area. You may even simply share resources and support with others on social media. Confidentially sharing concerns, humor and frustrations — as well as support — from people who understand can help you cope with challenges. Sharing support is empowering for the person receiving it and for the person providing it.

The resources and tips below offer helpful information you can use to improve the health and well-being of your family. Talk about and share resources with other families who may need support.

  • Learn about tips and strategies for two-doctor families.
  • ResponderStrong improves mental health supports for emergency responders and their families.
  • Married to Doctors Podcast discusses the challenges faced by the spouses and families of physicians.
  • Safe Call Now includes trained peer advocates who can provide assistance, resources and support for any public safety or medical personnel and their families.

Sometimes just having some tips for how to communicate with your loved one or ideas to help ease stress can be helpful. For example, use active listening when they feel like talking. This means eliminating distractions, summarizing important points they share and empathizing with their perspective and feelings.

Understand that your spouse may need some time alone after their shift to decompress before reconnecting with the family. There are also some things they may not want to talk about. Often, the distress they feel over a traumatic incident is something they want to prevent you from also feeling.

Having conversations with children about a parent’s job can also be difficult. Remember to consider the age of the child when discussing sensitive topics. Although younger children will not need or even likely understand a detailed description of traumatic experiences and effects on the health care professional, older children and teenagers may ask for more information. Be honest with your children while avoiding distressing details and be ready to listen and answer questions when they arise.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).