Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mental Health Series - Helping Others Cope with Mental Illness

Helping someone you love, who has a mental illness, can be difficult. Providing the support the need may not always be easy.

Many family members blame themselves for the illnesses of their loved one. Don’t do that. It’s not your fault.  It’s important for families “to learn that they didn’t cause [their loved one’s disorder] and they can’t cure it,” according to Harriet Lefley, Ph.D, professor at the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine who’s worked with families for 25 years.
However, how you treat them can have a major impression on their well being. Here are some tips to follow when supporting someone you love with a mental illness.

  • Educate yourself about the illness
  • Seek resources
  •  Be realistic about your expectations
  •  Reach out to family and friends for support
  •  Work closely with your loved one’s medical support team


Learn all you can by talking to doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, and any one else on your loved one’s medical support team about the type of illness and what to expect.

There are many Internet and community resources available for your support as well as the support of your loved one. You can locate them, interview them, and determine if they’re a suitable resource.

When being realistic about your expectations, understand that there is no cure for mental illness. If your loved one has to stay in the hospital for any length of time and released, they are not “cured”, only stabilized to some point.

Don’t try to do everything on your own. You can’t be there 24/7 for your loved one as well as keep up with a job, family, children, social life, house, and other responsibilities. Ask for help. Ask family and friends to step in and be there for you. Ask for an afternoon off so that you can do some shopping or get a manicure or pedicure. Find some time to yourself so that you can recharge your own personal batteries.

Have a hobby that you can continue to do, even while supporting your loved one. It’s important for you to stay mentally and physically healthy as well. Don’t give up seeing your friends. You need that social interaction to motivate you.


If necessary, keep a journal. It will not only be beneficial to your loved one’s medical support team to know about all the ups and downs of his/her mental illness, but to understand how you are coping as well. Use the journal to vent your emotions and record your own ups and downs with supporting a loved one with a mental illness. Getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper can bring a great relief.

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