helping a loved one

Mental illness is not a rare thing; it’s estimated that one in five adults struggle with mental illness in America.

Behind each of those struggling individuals is a family of people who love them and want to provide the best possible support, but often aren’t sure how to do so. Here are some strategies to get your loved one to a better, healthier mental state and ensure they get the help they need.

Know The Importance Of Your Support

First, recognize and embrace the importance of your support. Research shows that the practical and emotional help provided during a mental illness is crucial to helping someone through this difficult time. Knowing people care can be the light that guides your loved one out of the dark.

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Have The Right Perspective

Before you can help someone who has a mental illness, you need the right perspective. Mental illness comes with a lot of stigma, and you can’t provide support and care if you buy into that stigma.

Sometimes it helps to view mental illness similar to physical illness. If someone was diagnosed with pneumonia, for example, you would not expect them to go about their normal lives as if everything was fine.

Mental illness can be just as debilitating, and your loved one needs the same level of acceptance and support as they recover.

Advocate For Your Loved One To Seek Help

If you notice signs of a mental health problem, start asking questions. Find out if they’re getting help. If they aren’t, help connect your loved one with the appropriate treatment or care.

The key to being helpful and avoiding confrontation is to express concern and support. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Be responsive and nonjudgmental with questions like:

  • I’m worried about you. Can we talk about what you’re going through, or can I help you find someone you’re comfortable talking with?
  • How can I help you find more information about what you’re going through?
  • I’m here for you. How can I help?

Have these conversations in a place where your loved one feels safe and comfortable. If you notice negative reactions, slow the conversation or back up and return to it later.

Help With Daily Living

When you’re living with a mental illness, the daily living tasks you face are often a challenge. Help with things like house cleaning, cooking, and doing the dishes. Sometimes those little bits of help can make a tremendous difference in your loved one’s life.

Provide Reassurance That You Care

Mental illness can be isolating. People who struggle with mental illness may find friends and family members pulling away when they need them most. Reassuring your loved one that you care is one of the greatest ways to show support.

However, it’s easy to become overbearing. Here are some tips to show your care without going too far:

  • include your family member in plans, such as inviting them to family events
  • be ready to listen when they’re ready to open up
  • share that you love and care about them regularly
  • remember important dates, like birthdays and anniversaries

Expect Confusing Behavior

People who struggle with mental illness often do not have socially acceptable behavior. Sometimes their behavior can be hurtful. It can feel deliberate and purposeful.

For instance, someone with severe OCD may struggle to sit and enjoy a meal at a restaurant. They may find themselves obsessively checking to ensure that they locked their car, which can be embarrassing and uncomfortable.

By realizing this is a symptom of the illness of OCD, rather than a blight on your loved one’s character, you can embrace your loved one and move forward with your dinner.

While you should not be subject to abusive or cruel behaviors, understand that other socially unacceptable behaviors are signs of the illness. Strive to understand what might be causing the behavior so you can help your loved one with their healing.

Take Care Of Yourself

Caring for an ill family member is physically and emotionally exhausting, whether it’s a physical illness or a mental illness. Be sure to schedule time to take care of yourself while you’re supporting your loved one.

Self-care will give you the energy and emotional fortitude to keep providing the right level of care to your loved one during a challenging time.

Mental illness and behavioral issues impact everyone in the family. By showing thoughtful support, you can help your loved one start on the path toward healing.