Do you have a loved one with a mental or emotional health concern? Here’s how you can help
September 25, 2020
Mental illnesses are common in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five adults in the U.S. live with a mental illness. What is mental illness? Any mental illness (AMI) encompasses all recognized mental illnesses, including behavioral or emotional illnesses. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe effect on someone’s daily life. If you have a friend or loved one that has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it’s important for you to know ways you can help them. We all have to work together to break the stigma of mental illness. Remember that a mental illness is an illness of the brain, just like diabetes is an illness of the pancreas. And there's no shame in having a mental illness. It’s important to remember these things when you provide support for your loved one. In addition to the treatment they receive from their doctor, they will need you to support them in their journey. Here are ways you can be there for them:
Know the warning signs of mental illness
You may have a loved one that hasn’t received a diagnosis yet, but you suspect they could be struggling with mental illness. There are a few signs you can look for. They include:
- Withdrawal from social interaction
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Problems functioning at work or school
- Mood swings
According to the American Psychiatric Association, someone exhibiting these signs or having these experiences does not necessarily mean the person has a mental health problem, the symptoms could also be related to other issues or problems. However, following up with an evaluation from a medical professional could help address any problems and prevent more serious symptoms from developing.
Be patient and understanding
Don’t forget to be patient when helping your loved one. They may also be seeking answers just like you. Try to be open and nonjudgmental when they tell you how they are feeling. The road to treatment can be a long one, so they’ll need your full support.
Learn the symptoms
If your loved one receives a mental illness diagnosis, then you should take time to ask a medical professional questions about the illness. Learn the symptoms associated with it so you know what to expect and how to help.
Encourage them to follow the advice of a medical professional
Talking with a mental health care provider or primary care physician is the most important step towards getting help. They will be able to point your loved one to the best path to take. Encourage them to follow the treatment advice they receive from a medical professional. This can include attending regular therapy sessions and taking medication among other options. Trust the medical professional to give them the best course of action and encourage them to follow their advice.
Seek support for yourself
You don’t have to do this alone. Make sure that you are also seeking support for yourself. Everyone needs to be able to have a support system. Remember to take care of yourself so that you can help the ones you love most.
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8253.