Home » Advice for Helping a Loved One with a Mental Illness

Good mental health benefits all parties that are involved in a relationship. Yet, one a partner experienced a mental illness, whether it is depression, PTSD or addiction; the relationship is even more important. Here is some advice for helping a loved one who is dealing with a mental health condition.

Individuals with mental illness often have unique care and support requirements. It is difficult for people who are experiencing a mental health condition. At the same time, it can be just as difficult for people to live with a loved one who has a mental illness. In stressful situations, it is easy to feel negative and perhaps make the situation worse.

Sometimes, partners of people who have a mental illness feel unsure and anxious. They are not sure if they have the necessary skills and strength to help their loved one and keep the relationship healthy. A key element of recovery is having support from friends and family. There are still misconceptions about mental health conditions. Talking about these misunderstandings is crucial for developing a healthier, happier relationship.

Learn About the Mental Illness:

The saying that knowledge is power is particularly true in understanding and overcoming mental health conditions. If people in a relationship with someone with a mental health condition, it is important to understand the details of the mental illnesses as well as any diagnosis. The symptoms of many mental illnesses include more than just periods of anxiety and depression.

There are unique behavioral and emotional patterns that are associated with different mental health issues. The more an individual can learn about their partner’s condition, the more likely they will be able to provide thoughtful and effective support. Knowing what to expect is half the battle.

With this knowledge, it is now possible to create a prevention and/or recovery plan. Know the warning signs and symptoms of the specific illness. This provides the opportunity to create and initiate an action plan when a symptom occurs. An agreed upon action plan is helpful during a moment of crisis. There is a better chance that the immediate crisis will pass or be prevented altogether.

Use Good Communication Skills:

Good communication is a vital part of any relationship. Yet, many people do not realize that good communication skills are even more important when a partner is diagnosed with a mental health condition. Having the ability to see if someone is doing alright is crucial in these instances. This is due to the fact that behavioral health issues can motivate people to withdraw and socially isolate themselves.

People with mental illnesses should not feel isolated. They should have the choice of being alone when they choose, while also having access to support networks. This is why maintaining contact with a person with this condition is beneficial and can help them recover in the long run. As previously mentioned, learning about a loved one’s mental health condition, or even participating in couples therapy is helpful.

A way to maintain contact with a loved one who is struggling with mental illness is through the use of good communication skills. A professional mental health provider can model and explain positive communication styles and approaches. For example, when speaking, here are four general tips for better communication with loved ones:

  • Stay positive. It is easy to slip into a more negative, accusatory style of conversation. Focus on the positive points that the other person makes during the conversation. Praise should be focused, generous and made public. If there is any criticism, make sure it is counterbalanced with positive feedback.
  • Respond to criticism, but do not react. The conversation should stay respectful, calm and positive. If the discussion starts to become emotionally-charged and angry, take a short break. Then, agree with the other person on a set time to resume the discussion.
  • Ask the other person for a summary of the overall conversation. This is a polite way to ensure that people understand what was discussed. The goal is not to not criticize or make the conversation more complex. Instead, people should make sure everyone is in agreement and on the same page.
  • The goal is to resolve any conflicts, instead of having an attitude of winning conflicts. When individuals are unable to arrive at an agreement, they should take a break and set a time for a future conversation. The focus is to develop a solution to any problems. But, occasionally people will have to agree to disagree.

You Are Not Your Mental Illness:

How we cope with behavioral health conditions is important. Whether individuals are working through problems, or providing support for a loved one, everyone should remember that they are not their mental illness. This is a stigma that no one should have to carry around. When people remember that their mental health condition does not define them, it is easier to continue to work towards recovery.

Living with a behavioral health condition has a tremendous impact on an individual’s life, as well as the lives of friends and family. But again, it should not become the central feature that defines the relationship.

Individuals living with a diagnosis should take care of themselves and work towards recovery. This means understanding how to take care of themselves is a critical step to overcoming their mental illness. If individuals can learn how to take care of themselves, it is easier to recover.

In addition, loved ones are acting in a supportive role need to take care of themselves as well. The people providing support will also need their own level of support. In this way, they can monitor their own mental health and maintain a positive outlook. Partners of people with behavioral health issues should seek out their own support networks. This allows them to talk about their experiences and regulate their own emotions.

Sadly, people simply cannot make a loved one better. The loved one has to desire and actively work to overcome mental illness. So even if there are the necessary resources and supports, a person may not want to follow the steps to better mental health. People struggling with behavioral health issues should not be given ultimatums, but they need to understand that there are necessary steps that need to be taken if they are to recover.

Seek Professional Help:

If families or couples are having trouble dealing with the ramifications of a mental health issue, they should look for help. Researching topics on the internet is a good place to start, but this does not replace mental health professional or healthcare specialist.

There are online resources such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). This is a good source of information. At their partner’s discretion, loved ones should not be afraid to ask for help. An experienced and trusted mental health professional can provide important treatments and support.

Finding solutions for mental health issues in a relationship is often challenging. It takes a considerable amount of work and patience to find success. However, the goal is to create and maintain a meaningful, trusting connection with their partner so that they can develop a satisfactory level of health and happiness.

About Us:

The staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center strive to meet the needs and concerns of their patients. They accomplish this by forming a trusting partnership with their patients and generating a comprehensive treatment plan that is customized to an individual’s needs.

Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center is proud to provide behavioral and mental health services throughout central Ohio. For more information about treatments and services, contact us.

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Contributor:  ABCS RCM