Lifestyle Magazine

Supporting A Loved One With Mental Illness

May 9, 2019

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Mental Health Month is coming up, and while we’ve come a long way in how we view mental illness, there is still much work to be done.

Having a friend or family member with a mental illness like anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, or PTSD can be challenging.

Separating the person from the illness and trying to understand them and what they’re going through is crucial in providing the best support possible. With your encouragement and compassion, it’s easier for them to cope with their illness and seek ongoing treatment.

End the Stigma

Many people experiencing mental illness are hesitant to seek help because they’re either ashamed or in denial. Some people don’t believe mental illness is even real, while others think they can “snap themselves out of it.”

We cannot allow the stigma to continue because of the devastating consequences of untreated mental illness, which can include hospitalizations, increased risk of other chronic conditions, job loss, and suicide.

Know the Signs

A mental illness impacts not only the person who has it but also those around them. For many people, the onset of mental illness will be slow and occur over time. Signs and symptoms of mental illness include:

•    Changes in sleep or appetite

•    Apathy

•    Lack of personal care, such as bathing or changing clothing

•    Loss of interest in activities or hobbies

•    A decline in functioning at work or school

•    Difficulty concentrating

•    Mood changes

•    Odd or otherwise uncharacteristic behavior

Keep in mind, these are general symptoms and they can’t tell you much about your loved one’s individual nuances.

Provide Support

Mental illnesses are real and treatable. If someone you love is showing signs of mental illness, your support is critical.

Start by acknowledging the person’s feelings, even if they don’t make sense or are difficult for you to understand. It won’t help to minimize or downplay what the person is experiencing.

It can be easy to take your loved one’s behavior personally but don’t. Just as someone with asthma can’t “breathe harder” during an attack, someone with depression can’t just “cheer up.”

When you show unconditional love and support, your loved one will begin to trust you and together you can talk about seeking treatment. Today, there are many options for treating mental illness, including medication, individual therapy and group therapy.

Get Support

Having a loved one with a mental health issue can be hard and lonely especially when you’re the person at the receiving end of the symptoms. As a result, make sure you have the support you need and take good care of yourself.

Also, consult with your doctor about your role as a caregiver so he or she can help you find the right kind of support, which might be in the form of individual or group therapy.

Mental illness can take a toll on relationships, but your loved one is still the same person. With your love and support, they can have hope for a better future.

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