Mental illness affects many people from all walks of life. If a loved one is diagnosed with mental illness, your goal is to find the best way to support them. You can have a role in helping your loved one cope with mental health issues. Learning more about the condition, seeking professional help or individual therapy, listening without judgment, and learning how to effectively communicate with them are a few ways you can best support your loved ones in their struggle. Below are five tips for helping a loved one with mental illness:
1. Learn About the Illness
Not all mental ailments are the same, and one’s circumstances can’t be transposed to another. Before making general assumptions, learn about the specific mental illness your loved one has. Educating yourself about the condition, symptoms, and implications on your loved one’s life will help you understand them better.
Learning about the illness is the foundation of support and improves the family environment. Education also eliminates misconceptions and assumptions about the severity of the condition. Mental illness can result in terrifying thoughts and suicidal ideation, which healthy people can’t understand unless they educate themselves.
2. Use “I Statements”
Showing concern is essential in helping loved ones cope with mental illness. Instead of using “you” statements, use “I” statements. Examples of “I” statements include “I’m worried about you” or “I’ve noticed you spend more time alone lately.” “You” statements, such as “you need to see a professional,” aren’t that helpful.
Using “I” statements shows genuine concern and curiosity without judgment and assumptions. Loved ones are more likely to share their problems and opinions when they’re sure you’re not judging them. “You” statements carry judgment and may come across the wrong way, even if the intention is good.
3. Have Realistic Expectations
Mental illness is a delicate subject and requires patience and genuine care for those afflicted. Passing judgment is easy when you’re not the one facing the struggles of living with a mental condition. However, you should know your expectations impact the loved one’s recovery. Just because one is out of the hospital doesn’t mean they’re fully recovered.
High expectations can push your loved ones to take the wrong steps and increase stress levels to avoid disappointing everyone. Unfortunately, high-stress levels can lead to relapse and negative impacts on progress. You should set realistic expectations and understand some people recover at a slower pace than others.
4. Seek Professional Help
Mental illness carries its unique stigma, and families may refrain from seeking help. Experts recommend approaching professionals as soon as you notice mental illness symptoms to gain valuable knowledge and insights. Speaking to a professional can help you learn how to support loved ones with mental illness. You can gain strength and learn coping strategies.
The professionals deal with mental illness issues more frequently and are trained in the field. You can leverage their experience and knowledge to provide the best support for your loved ones. Some centers offer family training, resourceful publications, and emergency assistance to help you deal with various mental illnesses and situations.
5. Listen & Pay Attention
Letting those affected with mental illness speak their mind and share their stories and opinions is crucial to their recovery. You should let your loved ones share as little or as much as they want about their mental health. Don’t push or rush them into speaking. Your work is to listen to everything they’re willing to share. Try repeating what they say to understand everything.
Don’t make any assumptions. If your loved one doesn’t open up, try encouraging them to speak to their mental health professional. Pay close attention to complaints about medication, side effects, and whatever bothers them. Listening and paying attention will help you learn more about what your loved one is going through, which is vital in supporting them.
Individual Therapy for Mental Health Clients
Mental health issues are a big concern for many families. If you’re loved one is facing mental illness, you should seek prompt help from professionals. Depending on the illness, professionals may recommend dialectical behavior therapy, expressive play therapy, EDMR, medication, and more. You should also seek individual therapy from reputable facilities. Working with experts will best prepare you to help your loved one recover.