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How You Can Help Someone With Mental Illness

Mental illness is painful for all involved.  Not only for the person with the disorder, but also for the loved ones who have to watch helplessly as someone they love so dearly suffers.   If you know someone diagnosed with mental health problems, you know that pain all too well.  Below are some tips that can help you to help the one you love.

Learn to be a good listener.  People need to get their feelings out sometimes, and if you can listen quietly without judging, you will be a great help.

Be willing to listen silently.  Acknowledge you are listening however.   Making eye contact or touching your loved one's hand help to show you are listening.

Never pressure your loved one to talk.  Sometimes a person just needs to cry.  A hug may be the best thing during this time.

Do not offer advice unless you are asked for it.   Sometimes people just want to talk, not look for a solution.

If you know someone else with a similar mental health issue or have it yourself, do not compare situations.  No matter how you mean it, sometimes comparisons make the other person feel like you are saying, "My situation is so much worse than yours! Stop your whining!"

Use wisdom with your words.  Avoid saying insensitive statements such as,

"I know how you feel"  (Really? You know what it's like to live with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, PTSD etc?)

"That doesn't sound so bad."   (Maybe not to you, but from my perspective, it is really horrible!)

"Well if I were you, I would..."   (You don't know what you would do in this situation, even if you had the same disorder.  Besides, what works for you may not necessarily work for me.)

"You don't look sick."  (Seriously??  It's mental illness, not a flesh eating disease- of course I don't look sick!)

Always remember to be supportive.  Look and listen for clues on what your loved one needs.   She may say she wants to be alone, but if you go to leave, and she suddenly starts rambling on, that is a clue she does not truly want to be alone.

Be encouraging.  When your loved one says things never will change,  remind her that they might.   Remind her she has your support and unconditional love.   Remind her that you are praying for her.   Pray with her.

Offer distractions sometimes.  Suggest going to the movies, out to lunch, shopping, a walk in the park.   If you are married to someone with a mental illness, then offer some romance.   Sweet romantic gestures from the heart can help anyone feel a thousand times better. Those gestures need not be expensive- for your wife, pick some flowers from your garden, present her with a special bubble bath or bottle of nail polish, give her a new book from her favorite author.   For your husband, pick him up some gourmet coffee, a new CD, a new gadget he has been wanting, or have his car washed.   The point is to offer a distraction as well as a reminding your loved one that you were thinking of him or her.

Acknowledge that your loved one may need a lot of quiet time alone.  While distractions are great, sometimes when symptoms of mental illness flare up, you just need time to yourself.  Some disorders make you want to hide out periodically, such as depression.   Others, such as C-PTSD and PTSD make you sensitive to noise, and there are times when you need total silence lest your brain become overwhelmed.

Learn about the disorder.  Ask your loved one questions, research it online, or talk to the doctor if you accompany him or her to appointments. It not only shows that you care, but also helps you to know what to expect when the symptoms flare up.

Be patient and understanding.  Always remember that your loved one is not trying to be difficult. He or she did not ask for this awful disorder. Given the choice, no one wants to live with mental illness.


© 2018  Cynthia Bailey-Rug and www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that the full and clear credit is given to Cynthia Bailey-Rug and www.CynthiaBaileyRug.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.