Moods are contagious! Early identification of emotional problems helps enhance a family’s mental health

Moods are contagious! Early identification of emotional problems helps enhance a family’s mental health

Moods are contagious! Early identification of emotional problems helps enhance a family’s mental health



4  Mins Read

Emotional problems are like a contagious disease that could easily be passed around or affect others especially within a family. Since 15 May is the International Day of Families proclaimed by the United Nations, let’s pay more attention to the mental health of our family members and take better care of each and every one of them.

The crisis when kids go through great change of temperament

There once was a man who was out a lot, causing his wife to suspect that he was hiding something from her and the relationship turned sour gradually. As the wife lost her mental support from her husband, their son became her only hope. Although their son was still young, he had to take up the responsibilities of his father’s and became her mother’s listener and pacifier. With the stress and fear that he might hurt her mother’s feelings, he decided to hold in his emotions.

In additional, he was caught in a dilemma – his hatred towards his father grew as her mother bad-mouthed his father but his love for his father, his closest kin, could never die. As a result, this contradiction not only turned him from a cheerful kid into a reserved boy, but also a son with an unstoppable short temper.

Seeing her son go through a great change of temperament, the mother suspected that he had developed mood disorders and so took him to seek treatment. After rounds of talks and evaluation, she found out that it was her depression that had triggered the negative emotions in her son.

4 signs of deteriorating mental health

A sudden change of behavior in our children could be an alarm that the parents’ mental health is deteriorating. Since kids are still incompetent in expressing themselves verbally, they are likely to show their emotions via behaviours, such as throwing a tantrum, having trouble falling sleep and waking up frequently during the night, having nightmares or developing more phobias. Some parents may mistake these as symptoms of autism or hyperactivity disorder which falls under congenital developmental disorder and are not developed in a short period of time.

In fact, the above family is not an uncommon case simply because most parents allocated all of their resources and time to their kids and overlooked their own mental health. So as a parent, it is as important to love yourself as you love your children. Here are 4 signs of deteriorating mental health to watch for:

  1. Deterioration in sleep quality
    Frequent insomnia or waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, feeling mentally exhausted and low-spirited.
  2. Depression
    Feeling helpless and hopeless constantly and having no energy or enthusiasm for even the favourite things. Some may lose their appetite or don’t bother to eat and lose the motivation of self-care.
  3. Restless and irritable
    Feeling angry easily for a long time or overreacting to the smallest of things, eg. unable to control oneself over scolding others.
  4. Thought of suicide
    At this stage, one should realise that there is something wrong with his/her mental health. People who think of committing suicide assume that they have no solution for the problems at hand and see no hope in front of them.

Improper caring makes things worse

The proverb goes ‘the onlooker sees most of the game’. Likewise, people with deteriorating mental health may not be able to realise the problem. This is why family members should care about each other’s emotional change. But no aggressive or even offensive comments should be made, such as “I’ve told you so!” which may induce adverse effects. Telling them what you’ve observed may help, eg. “You looked unhappy to me recently.” Communicating through a caring tone is a better way to start a conversation and to encourage them to open up, creating a chance to meet a doctor or clinical psychologist for professional advice.

Beatrice Ng-Kessler
Registered Clinical Psychologist