Sex & Life
Sex & Life September 28, 2017
If you give up on them, they will give up on themselves.
Supporting a friend or family member with a mental illness is never and will never be easy. There’s never a simple answer for approaching an issue this complicated.
Mental health illnesses can hit the person suffering and their loved ones like a ton of bricks. You’ll never see it coming and you won’t even know it’s been infesting your loved one’s mind for at least months later.
They could be smiling and laughing but also feel empty and painfully lonely on the inside.
But, the most important lesson to remember is: never give up on them.
No matter how much they fight against your help or no matter how much they convince you that they’re ok, leaving them alone will make their sickness so much worse.
At the same time, it’s easy to get to a point where nothing you do is helping and you feel helpless and defeated.
Everyone is different, so treating a mental illness is different for everyone.
The first step in supporting a loved one with a mental illness is understanding the illness and creating an open dialogue.
This requires extensive and accurate research. It’s vital to know what you’re going to be dealing with and what you’re getting yourself into. So, knowing the causes, symptoms and treatments can help you target the problem and eliminate it as soon as possible.
According to a Psychology Today article by Victoria Maxwell, a speaker on her lived experience of mental illness and recovery, informing yourself about the illness is vital.
“Get the truth not the myths. Local mental health associations are terrific resources to help you understand the illness and the route recovery often takes. It’s also an ideal place to find others going through or who have gone through similar experiences.”
David F. Swink, former Director of the National Institute of Mental HealthTraining Program in Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy, wrote in a Psychology Today article that when talking to a loved one with a mental illness “be respectful to the person. When someone feels respected and heard, they are more likely to return respect and consider what you have to say.”
It’s important to remember that a person’s mental illness doesn’t affect their intelligence. Do not lie to them.
Make sure to make them feel safe and comfortable. It’s also important to stay calm and patient. It’s difficult to convince someone with a mental illness to express their feelings but it will happen eventually.
You wouldn’t expect to treat a broken leg on your own, so don’t expect to treat a mental illness without medical help.
According to psychiatrist Dr. Mark S. Komrad, “research has shown that mental illness tends to disrupt people’s lives even more than physical conditions.”
Psychologist Daniel J. Reidenberg told Huffington Post that seeking medical help can speed up the process of recovery.
“The earlier someone gets help, the easier it is to get through the problem,” Reidenberg said. “There will be less time and less strain and stress involved in that.”
There is also a lot of stigma around seeing a psychologist or therapist. Society has compared seeking medical help to being “crazy” or as a sign of weakness. But therapy is vital to a healthy mental state no matter who you are or what you’re going through.
“There is still an unjustified stigma around mental illnesses, but we’re not even talking about mental illness,” Reidenberg said. “We’re just talking about life and how hard life can be. The benefits of psychotherapy [can be viewed] more like stress-relievers like exercising and eating right — just strategies that help make life easier and help to remove stressors.”
The minute your loved one starts showing signs of a mental illness such as stress, a lack of interest in life, social withdrawal or a decrease in energy, start talking to them about finding a medical professional.
If they are a danger to themselves or feeling suicidal, it’s absolutely vital to admit them to a hospital immediately.
Your loved one is never going to get fully better without medical attention.
When attempting to support a loved one who is mentally ill, you need to remember that you can’t cure them. They can’t get better unless they want to. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, offering them support can have more positive effects than you would ever assume. Giving them support to seek medical help and to participate in healthy activities is the first step to helping your loved one get better. If you give up on them, they will give up on themselves. If they know they have someone by their side at all times, their problems will seem less scary and easier to handle.
Mental health illnesses aren’t as easily understood as a cold or a broken arm. You can’t cure an unstable brain with aspirin or a cast. But your loved one will not stay in this mental state forever. They can get better, but it’s up to you to lead them into a happier and healthier lifestyle.
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