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Mental Illness: Supporting a Loved One

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Supporting a Loved One with Mental Illness

By educating yourself about mental health disorders, you can even help fight the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Navigation: Educate Yourself about their Illness, Listen and Communicate Openly with Your Family Member, Encourage Professional Help, Be Patient and Understanding, Take Care of Yourself, Help Them Find Their Purpose, Acknowledge Their Progress and Provide Positive Feedback, Rehab is Your Best Chance


It’s not easy watching someone you love struggle with a mental health disorder, whether it’s a friend or family member. You may feel powerless because of their situation, but there are actually plenty of things you can do to support them.

You need to show your love and care for them as they deal with their mental illness so that recovery is a bit easier for them.

While supporting a loved one with a mental illness can be challenging, the way you treat them can have a huge impact on their well-being. Your behavior can actually affect their symptoms.

Studies have shown that patients with families who expressed hostility towards them were more likely to relapse. The same can be said for patients whose family members were emotionally overinvolved. In order to properly support your loved one, you need to find the right balance.

Here we will talk about some of the best ways to support your loved one who is dealing with a mental illness, whether it’s anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorder, or anything else. Let’s take a closer look.


Educate Yourself about their Illness

The first thing you need to do is educate yourself about their illness. It’s impossible for you to have all the answers, but you need to know as much as you can about mental illnesses. Sometimes other family members can be insensitive towards their loved one’s condition, and it may cause them to say things that are hurtful or not contributing to the person’s recovery.

To combat this, you need to learn as much as you can about their condition, including its symptoms, treatments, and challenges. This will help you understand what they are going through and how to support them.

By educating yourself about mental health disorders, you can even help fight the stigma surrounding mental illness. This knowledge can increase empathy towards those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Knowing a lot about mental illnesses can even help you detect it early. By learning about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, you can recognize when someone you know may be struggling with something.

Early detection can lead to early intervention, which can improve outcomes. This can even put your mind at ease because you can stop overthinking and really grasp the situation. You will understand the severity of the symptoms and respond accordingly.

If you have a loved one who is struggling with a mental health issue like anxiety or depression, you can support them better. You will be able to communicate more effectively, avoid harmful misconceptions, and help them find the appropriate treatment. This will improve the family environment.

Education about mental health disorders can help you understand the different treatment options available. It can help you make informed decisions while planning for your loved one’s treatment. Whether it’s combating stigma or supporting your loved ones better, education is very important.


Listen and Communicate Openly with Your Family Member

Be a good listener and let your loved one know that you are there for them. Encourage open communication and validate their feelings.

Dealing with a mental illness is tough, so you need to stay on the same page as your family member. Establish a genuine connection with them by talking openly and honestly about their situation. Learn about what matters to them. Encourage open communication.

Talking to a loved one with a mental health disorder can be challenging, but there are some steps you can take to make the conversation more comfortable and productive.

When they are speaking about their experiences, it is important that you remain non-judgmental. Create a safe space where they can talk freely about their feelings and struggles. Do not force them to view things the same way you do, but at the same time, be candid about your own perspective.

Do not invalidate their experiences by dismissing them when they talk about their symptoms. This will only erode their trust in you. They may choose to hide these details from you in the future. You need to encourage them to become forthcoming and honest about their experiences. This information is necessary for their recovery.

Honesty builds trust between people, and trust is especially important when dealing with a mental health disorder. Your loved one needs to know that they can rely on you to tell them the truth, even if it is difficult to hear.

If your loved one is struggling with a mental health disorder, being honest about the severity of their condition and any potential risks is crucial for their safety. You need to encourage them to be honest about any suicidal thoughts or behaviors, self-harm, or dangerous behaviors that may require intervention.

These conversations are not easy to have. Choose the right time and place for it. Set a time and place where your loved one feels comfortable and relaxed. Make sure there are no distractions or interruptions. Offer encouragement and support instead of judgment or criticisms.

Remember, communication is a two-way street, so be open to listening to your loved one’s perspective and be willing to work together to find solutions. Be honest about your own feelings and concerns as well. It shows that you care about their well-being and are willing to have difficult conversations to help them get the help they need.

Encourage Professional Help

While you’re speaking to them about their condition, try to encourage them to seek professional help if they are not already doing so.

Eliminate the barriers that keep them from seeking treatment. Offer to help them find a therapist. You can even offer practical support like helping with household chores, looking after their kids, shopping for groceries, or taking them to appointments. This can help alleviate some of their stress and allow them to focus on their mental health.

Professional medical help is crucial for individuals with mental health disorders for several reasons. For starters, it will allow for a more accurate diagnosis.

Mental health disorders are complex and varied, and it can be difficult to determine the exact condition your loved one is suffering from. A mental health professional can accurately diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan specific to the individual’s needs.

Mental health professionals are also trained to provide evidence-based treatments that have been shown to be effective for specific mental health disorders. This can include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.

Left untreated, mental health disorders can lead to significant complications. It may lead to physical health problems, social isolation, or even substance abuse. Substance use disorder is particularly concerning because addiction and mental illnesses co-occur very often. Early intervention with professional medical help can prevent these complications from developing.

Getting professional treatment may even give your loved one a bit more confidence regarding their situation. Mental health disorders can be isolating and overwhelming, so knowing that they are being treated by licensed medical professionals can give them a bit of relief. A mental health professional can provide support and guidance to individuals and their families as they navigate the challenges of living with a mental health condition.

With the right treatment and support, individuals with mental health disorders can recover and live a healthy life. Proper treatment will teach them to recognize their triggers and apply healthy coping mechanisms. Overall, this can lead to an improved quality of life.

Be Patient and Understanding

Remember that recovery takes time and there may be setbacks along the way. Be patient and supportive, and celebrate their successes, no matter how small.

Mental health disorders can be challenging. These mental illnesses are complex conditions that can be difficult to understand and cope with. Patients may experience mood swings, irrational behavior, and other symptoms that can be frustrating for family members and loved ones.

Being patient and understanding can help you be more compassionate and empathetic towards your loved one, which can help to improve their overall well-being.

Recovery from mental health disorders is often a slow and ongoing process. It’s not a linear process. Some people may take longer than others. Some may relapse after a while. Keep in mind that setbacks are normal. Patience is key to supporting your loved one through this journey.

Being patient can help you provide the necessary emotional support and encouragement your loved one needs to keep going. Try to avoid getting frustrated by your loved one’s condition. This will only strain your relationship. Always communicate with your loved one in a calm and compassionate manner

When you show patience and understanding towards your loved one, they may be more willing to seek help and support. Many people with mental health disorders may feel ashamed or embarrassed, which can prevent them from seeking help. By being patient and supportive, you can create a safe and comfortable environment where your loved one can feel encouraged to seek help.

This is why being patient with a loved one who has a mental health disorder is essential.

Take Care of Yourself

Speaking of frustration, a lot of people experience guilt, shame, and regret when someone they love develops a mental health condition. It’s easy to blame yourself for their situation, but it’s best if you avoid this harmful mentality.

There are many challenges to supporting your loved one with a mental illness. But blaming yourself for their condition places an unnecessary burden on your own mental health.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself while taking care of others. Practice self-care and set healthy boundaries if necessary. You can’t support them properly if your own health is suffering.

You don’t have to do it all on your own. Seeking support from others, taking time to rest and recharge, and setting boundaries can help you feel comfortable enough to support your loved one through their recovery journey.

Remember, your support and care can make a significant difference in your loved one’s recovery. Set realistic expectations regarding your loved one’s condition. Relapse is always a possibility, so don’t be discouraged if your friend or family member continues to struggle even after treatment. Lower your expectations, set realistic recovery goals, and take it slow.

In the meantime, take care of yourself. Make sure you get enough hours of sleep every night. Don’t forget to eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Help Them Find Their Purpose

While you help them seek treatment and support groups, you also need to try and help them find their purpose again. When you have a sense of purpose, you also experience a heightened degree of psychological resilience and an improved overall well-being.

Research shows that purpose can help you bounce back from setbacks more easily. It also protects you from maladaptive behaviors. Having a sense of purpose can give you a more constructive mindset.

The best part is that it can even create a positive feedback loop. Positive behaviors strengthen your sense of purpose, which translates to healthier choices, and so on. This can improve your mental health significantly.

On the flip side, hopelessness is a common symptom that is experienced by those with personality disorders and major depression. Losing your sense of purpose can exacerbate symptoms, which can drive you deeper into your mental illness. It also creates a vicious cycle of self-destructive habits. Your goal is to help them break this cycle and allow them to reconnect with the sources of meaning in their life.

Acknowledge Their Progress and Provide Positive Feedback

We all know how difficult it is to deal with mental health conditions. This is why we need to take the time to celebrate small victories along the way. Recovering from a mental health disorder is a gradual process, and it’s essential to acknowledge and celebrate every step your loved one takes towards recovery, no matter how small.

We need to start treating mental illness with the same weight as physical illnesses like cancer or diabetes. We view people who fight these illnesses as courageous, and we need to extend the same perspective to those who suffer from mental health problems. Mental illness is just as debilitating as a physical illness.

With mental health recovery, the changes tend to happen incrementally, which is why they often go unnoticed. Support your loved one every step of the way by encouraging them and keeping track of their progress. This will help motivate them to keep going, allowing them to build momentum.

If someone you love is dealing with a mental health disorder or a substance use disorder, look for a rehab near you and find out more about various treatment options. The road to recovery begins today.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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