Receiving a diagnosis of having an intellectual or developmental disability can be shocking and some may find it difficult to cope with the news. However, with the help of one’s family, the reality can improve and steps can be taken to ensure individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions receive the tools and resources that best support them.
Unfortunately, however, sometimes those who would have also been a support, may have a hard time accepting the diagnosis. What to do? Read below for a few ideas on how to address a family or family members who deny a diagnosis.
1. Share with them information
For some families, their hesitation to accept a diagnosis stems from not knowing much about the condition in question. They may have a negative misconception about what it is or feel their loved one doesn’t present behaviors or appearances they’ve come to associate with the condition.
Try having a conversation with them, speaking in layman’s terms about the condition and how it’s manifesting in their loved one’s life. Gently address any myths or stereotypes they bring up, provide literature and other resources they can look over on their own, and invite them to talk with you and other members of the staff should they have questions.
2. Address fears and concerns
The hesitation to accept a diagnosis may come from the stigma that still surrounds mental health. They may feel ashamed that their loved one has a mental health condition, or may feel fearful regarding what a label might mean for them and their future. They may also fear that they are to blame for the condition.
Speak to their concerns and discuss what resources and tools you have in store to help support their loved one in managing their condition. Share success stories of others who’ve received the same or a similar diagnosis and the plans you can implement to help them. For example, if they’re concerned about their loved one making friends, acknowledge that while making friends may be a challenge, you do teach social skills and offer ample opportunities for consumers to practice them.
3. Look at the positive
For many, receiving a diagnosis is a welcomed relief. It validates what may have been suspected all along. It may explain the behaviors and experiences they’ve had throughout their lives and provides them the opportunity to receive the help they need to navigate their condition. Point out to families this understanding, that a diagnosis can help them feel less alone and clarify what has brought confusion. Receiving a diagnosis can improve their feelings of self and their quality of life.
And maybe for other families, no matter what you say or do, they’re not going to accept the diagnosis. Regardless of the diagnosis and whether a family accepts it or not, it’s still your responsibility as a mental health professional to advocate on behalf of all consumers under your charge.
What do you do when a family member doesn’t accept a diagnosis?