Is Mental Illness Hereditary?

Ernest Hemingway

I sometimes wonder to what extent mental illness is hereditary. Is there a gene that’s passed down through generations? I only think of this because of the struggles within the Hemingway family. I’ve been reading about the life of Ernest Hemingway and the struggles in his family.

Ernest Hemingway, the world-famous author, was famous for his many written works and for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. But like many great men and women, his personal life wan’t so great, from his vantage point. He took his own life after years of emotional struggles. Several of his family members did so as well. His brother Leicester Hemingway, his granddaughter Margaux Hemingway, his sister Ursula, and his father Clarence Edmonds Hemingway committed suicide, covering a span of 68 years, beginning with Clarence in 1928 through Margaux in 1996.

The National Institutes of Health has conducted a number of studies looking at the relationship between mental illness and family members. It was a strongest with first degree relatives (i.e., parents, siblings, and children). People with depression are most likely to have family members with depression.

The problem with depression is, some people don’t seek help. I think the reason, beyond the stigma that some people assign to therapy, is that symptoms of depression often look like other things. People may think they need to get more rest or they need to eat better or need to take iron pills or that they just have a cold or flu – so they self-medicate. For many, by the time they realize they may be depressed, they have been suffering for a long time.

I hope people with depression or other mental impairments can recognize them for what they are and get help. It must be a horrible life living with that way. You never know how things can touch a person enough for them to get help. Maybe someone seeing this post is in need of help. Here is a reliable resource for finding a therapist, either for yourself or someone you know.

Find a therapist here!




About Will S.

A nouveau Taurus, writing about my view of the world around me. From politics, to social problem, to public corruption, music and movies to pretty much anything I feel inspired to write.
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