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How to help someone with mental illness

Two young men clasping each others hands, close-up, studio shotBeing a family member or friend of someone struggling with a mental disorder can be overwhelming and confusing. As someone on the sidelines, there are few things that can be done to help make things easier for all parties involved.

Take the time to research and ask questions.

To be a good friend or family member, it’s essential that you understand the illness.  Do your due diligence and research using credible resources.  Go with your loved one to the doctor or attend family counseling sessions.  If they’ve been diagnosed already, find all the information you can on their illness so you can do your best to sympathize and understand their thoughts and feelings. By understanding what the other person is dealing with you can be a better resource to him or her.

Assemble a support group of family and friends and provide resources.

Having a large group of family and friends to surround and encourage your loved one can really help
communicate how much you care for them. Providing support and love can give them the validation and courage to move forward and begin to care for themselves.

Make sure you take care of yourself.

Similar to the airplane safety instructions, “Place the oxygen mask on yourself before you help those around you,” — it’s important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t sacrifice your own mental health for the sake of helping someone else. Although it’s difficult, you must remind yourself that there’s no way for you to help others if you are falling apart behind the scenes.

Other ideas:

  • Reach out for support from other families or friends
  • Be involved and work closely with you loved one’s treatment team
  • Set appropriate limits
  • Have realistic expectations
  • Support their courage
  • Embody hope

Horizon Health services provides support for the entire family — whether you are dealing with mental illness, substance abuse or both.  If you’re concerned about your family member or friend and believe they may be a danger to others or themselves, please reach out for help immediately.