How to Support a Loved One with Mental Illness

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how to support loved one with mental illness

What is the Best Way to Support Someone With Mental Illness?

Your spouse, family member, or friend is struggling, but you aren’t quite sure how to support a loved one with mental illness. Read on to learn more about mental health disorders, and how to help someone you care about.

What Are the Signs of Mental Illness?

Each of us has our own ability to manage stressors and adverse events. Some people are more resilient, and some may have better-coping skills, but we are all fragile to some extent.

Sometimes mental illness is baked into our genetics and will emerge no matter what our lives look like. Others may suffer a string of highly stressful life events that trigger a mental health crisis. Being aware of our own “normal,” and getting help when we notice something is wrong, can be lifesaving. The same holds true for a loved one that you notice displaying signs of a mental health problem.

Some warning signs of a possible mental health crisis may include:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Mental confusion.
  • Isolating behaviors.
  • Changes in personality.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Confused speech.
  • Odd or inappropriate behavior.
  • Rapid weight gain or loss.
  • Angry or violent outbursts.
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Extreme despair.
  • Odd body postures or movements.
  • Ignores personal hygiene.
  • Problems keeping up with the workload.
  • Losing interest in living.
  • Obsessed with death.
  • Suicide threats or attempts.

How to Approach a Loved One with Mental Illness

Approaching a friend or loved one about their mental health can be a challenge. Mental health is a sensitive topic, due to the stigma that still persists in our culture. Some people may become defensive when asked. This can happen because they might view their mental health struggle as a defect or sign of weakness.

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There are some gentle ways to approach the subject of mental health with a loved one. Consider these tips when starting the conversation:

  1. Choose the time carefully. Wait for a quiet time that allows you to chat with your loved one without interruption. Finding a quiet, private moment helps you avoid discomfort when talking about their mental health. Start the chat by simply asking how they are doing.
  2. Find the right time. Look for a time when your loved one is in a calm mood state. This is because if they are feeling upset, tired, or irritable they will not be open to chatting.
  3. Stay calm. Regardless of how concerned you might be for their wellbeing, it is important to maintain a relaxed, calm demeanor while talking with them. Do not become overly emotional or dramatic when you share your concerns.
  4. Be a good listener. If they are willing to open up to you, make the effort to really listen to what they are saying. Don’t dismiss or minimize their struggle. Instead, listen to what they share with a caring attitude.
  5. Offer your support. Remember that you don’t need to be a hero. Just asking, “How can I help,” may be enough to motivate them to be seen by a doctor. Offer to help them with specific acts. These might include helping them navigate their insurance or joining them on their first consult with a mental health provider.
  6. Find common ground. Be sure to share with them your own mental health struggles in the past, if that is the case. This can help the two of you create a common bond, and reduce their discomfort.

How to Help Someone with a Mental Health Disorder

There are several ways you can help your family member. Consider these actions:

  • Get informed about their type of mental illness, and research possible treatment options.
  • Listen to them without pushing your own bias or denying what they are sharing about their struggle with mental health issues.
  • Show genuine concern for your loved one. Follow up with periodic phone calls or texts to check on them.
  • Encourage them, and assure them they will overcome the mental illness.
  • Offer to be there for them. They may need a ride to the doctor or someone to watch their kids while they are in treatment.
  • Be an advocate for your loved one’s treatment and recovery process by being a second set of ears and eyes. This helps ensure treatment compliance and clear communication between the doctor and your loved one.
  • If the loved one is having a hard time managing basic tasks, offer to help them. Maybe assist them in doing housework, paying their bills, or running errands, but without taking over. They will benefit by feeling like they are a productive member of society.
  • Ensure the loved one knows that they are loved and valued.

Psychiatric Options for Mental Health Treatment

Your loved one has several options to choose from when seeking treatment for their mental health issue. The level of care is based on the severity of the mental health diagnosis. These levels of care include:

  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is offered in three different levels of care. The lowest level of care involves basic private psychotherapy or psychiatric care. Intensive outpatient programs and day treatment centers offer a more intensive mental health program.
  • Residential treatment. Residential mental health treatment programs are those that are located in private residences. These are small, intimate programs with few beds, and therefore offer a high level of care. These relaxing private home settings feature beautiful grounds and resort-like services.
  • Inpatient treatment. Inpatient care is the highest level of care for mental health treatment. It may be the psychiatric wing of a hospital that is segregated from the other patients or a mental hospital. These settings provide the highest level of care, such as suicide watch.

Learning how to support a loved one with mental illness can put them on the path to healing. Guide them toward seeking the help they deserve today.

Mental Health Hope Offers Online Support for Mental Health Concerns

Mental Health Hope is a free online support source for those seeking information and guidance. Our support team has the knowledge and experience to help you or a loved one seek out the proper level of care. Call us today at (877) 967-9274.

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