How to Help a Loved One with Mental Illness
Mental illness makes relationships tricky for everyone involved. If you’re feeling hopeless or
looking for some guidance, below are a few things you can do to help a loved one with a
mental health disorder.
Familiarize yourself with the illness. There’s tons of information at your disposal, whether it
be books, reputable sites online, or talking to mental health professionals. Understanding
what your loved one’s illness looks like is a great way to help. It can be easy to personalize
their behaviors, but making a distinction between the person and their symptoms can take
away some of that blame. Also, stay informed. It’s helpful to keep yourself updated with
news about the mental illness. Keep checking for new information or developments in
treatment to stay current.
2. Listen and be present.
You don’t have to have the answer. We don’t expect you to. But if your loved one is in the
middle of an OCD spiral or in the throes of a depressive episode, encourage them to talk.
Listen to what they’re saying. Talking about what goes on inside our heads can be very
cathartic, especially when there’s a supportive, attentive ear on the other side.
3. Understand that you are not the cure.
You are not your loved one’s therapist. It’s easy to take responsibility for their mental
illness, but that’s unrealistic. You are not the cause of your loved one’s disorder, and no
matter how much you want to, you can’t cure them either. What you can do, though, is
offer support and help them when they’re having a hard time. If they’re unable to schedule
a therapy session, do it for them. If they’re anxious to ask a waiter for another drink, ask
yourself. Your job isn’t to coddle but to support. Help where you can but accept that you
can’t do everything.
4. Find out what helps and what doesn’t.
Mental illness is frustrating for everyone. Your loved one doesn’t want to have it, and
sometimes trying to help can feel like a dead end. However, you can avoid this by asking
what you can do. You don’t have to guess - start an open dialogue to find out what works
and what doesn’t. And if your loved one isn’t sure, talk to their therapist. They can be a
great resource, too.
Mental illness can blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t. Reassure your loved
ones that you love them no matter what. Remind them they’ll be okay. These things
can be hard to remember when mental illness has its hands around your neck.
6. Resist the urge to get angry.
As mentioned above, mental illness can be a real pain. But please, be patient with us.
Don’t tell your loved one to “snap out of it.” They’re trying their best, so don’t get
frustrated when things don’t go as planned. Understand that your loved one is not their
mental illness and that kindness and patience can go a long way.
Image: The Metro Lawyer