If you have a loved one coping with mental illness, you know how hard it is to watch them struggle. Sometimes, you might even be confused about how to best comfort them. Although you may have the best intentions, perhaps you’re out of your league when it comes to showing your support. If you feel overwhelmed, we’ve compiled a guide to aid you and your family members through this difficult time.
How To Approach Your Loved One Coping With Mental Illness
One important factor to consider upfront: if your loved one is struggling with a mental disorder, know that this is not your fault. Some loved ones tend to blame themselves when their loved one is struggling. But in the recovery niche, there is a saying: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.” If you stop blaming yourself, you can better show support for your loved one. That may mean getting them to a professional counselor for an evaluation, setting boundaries, or simply encouraging them.
If you believe your loved one is struggling, you’ll want to approach the issue in a caring, compassionate way. Sit down with them and have a warm heart-to-heart about your concerns. Try not to make accusations, or you may come across as judgmental. This could cause your loved one to become angry or defensive.
For example, rather than saying, “You are an alcoholic” or “You are bipolar”, express your concerns with “I” statements, such as, “I am concerned about your drinking behavior lately”, or “I am concerned about you. Would you consider meeting with a therapist?” This signals that you’re more concerned about their well-being, instead of accusing them of having a mental health disorder.
At the same time, really listen to what they tell you. Practice active listening by letting them speak all that they have to say before jumping in with your own feelings. They want to be seen and heard, so show them you are present and affirm their feelings. It doesn’t necessarily mean you agree with what they’re feeling or doing, but it does let them know that their feelings are valued.
Educate Yourself On Mental Health Disorders
If your loved one is coping with a mental illness, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or substance use disorder, take the time to learn about that particular diagnosis. It’s important to know some of the warning signs of mental health conditions. This way, if your loved one exhibits symptoms, you’ll have the resources required to better approach them.
If you educate yourself on what they’re contending with, you will more likely have the skills required to support them. Not only will this help you experience less confusion or frustration over the matter, but it will also help your loved one feel more understood and supported. For example, if you find that your loved one is isolating themselves more frequently, this could be a preliminary sign of clinical depression. Remember that each person and their situation is different. Whereas one person may indeed be struggling with a mental health disorder, another may not.
Consider Getting Your Own Support
Having a loved one with a mental illness can be challenging at times. As much as you may want to focus your time on solely helping your loved one, don’t neglect your own self-care. You don’t want to skimp on your own emotional or physical needs.
Consider talking to a therapist or attending a support group. There may be support groups in your area designed specifically for family members of those struggling with mental illness, such as Al-Anon. You may also be able to find a support group through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
What To Expect
People with mental illnesses often end up on a winding road to recovery. Recovery from a mental illness and managing its symptoms doesn’t always go as planned. If your loved one experiences a setback, go easy on them. They’re likely beating themselves up about it already, so do your best not to take their setback personally. Instead, offer them love and encourage them to seek support.
Sometimes, recovery can take years. Other times, full recovery isn’t in the cards. However, with a proper treatment plan, your loved one can manage symptoms to the best of their abilities. Family support is important. As a loved one, simply showing up for them, regardless of how they’re doing, may be helpful. It might not always be easy for you, but know that your continued and unconditional support is important to them, and can ultimately help.
Get More Family Members on Board
If your loved one has just been diagnosed, one good idea is to have a discussion, family to family. You can include your loved one in the discussion, but in some situations, it may be best without them. If you think including family and friends in this matter will ultimately help your loved one, sit down and have a conversation with all of them. Let your family know how they can best show up to support your loved one. This can go a long way when it comes to recovery.
We can help you
Port St. Lucie Hospital specializes in mental health services and is located on 20 acres near the beautiful Savannas Preserve. If you or one of your loved ones is struggling with a mental health disorder, we can help. Our 24-hour mental health services are provided by licensed professionals in various disciplines. We tailor our programs to our patient’s needs and will help you every step of the way.