Article by Genevieve Desrochers
When someone you love has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it can be a shock for them and you. In such a circumstance, it is normal and understandable to experience a mixture of emotions, such as guilt, shame, disbelief, anxiety, anger, compassion, concern and even grief. One important thing to remember is that you are not to blame for a loved one’s mental illness. Many factors working together can be the causes of mental illnesses: genetics, biology, environment, and life experiences. It can take time for the diagnosed individual and for you to come to a place of acceptance. Be patient with yourself and your loved one.
Support from family members or other loved ones is essential to recovery. There are multiple ways to help someone you love who has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Here are a few tips:
- Inform yourself as much as possible about the mental illness. Find information you can trust from mental health professionals and well-known mental health organizations. They can help you learn more about mental illness, understand your loved one’s experience, and help you find ways you can best support them.
- Ask your loved one what would be helpful for them regarding support. Asking them how to support them demonstrates that you do not assume you know better than them. Instead, it leaves room for your loved one to feel empowered and be self-aware. Remember to keep this conversation going since their needs might be shifting in the recovery process, and always ensure the requests are doable for you.
- You can play a part in helping a loved one maintain well-being. You and other close supporters may be the first to notice changes in their mood, behaviour, self-care, or other areas indicating their mental health may worsen. You can help your loved one find the right help and support early.
- You can also help them see hope when they struggle to recognize it. Indeed, it is one of the most important things you can do to support a loved one with mental illness. Also, make a point to recognize and praise their strengths and progress.
Supporting your loved one with a mental illness can take a lot of time and energy. This is why it is also essential to take care of yourself as well. Here are a few things to remember:
- Accept your own feelings and know that you are not alone.
- Stay connected. Talk to friends and family members you trust. Let them know what you are experiencing. You can also join a support group. To find a local support group, contact a local community mental health organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). If you are a parent with a child facing mental health challenges, you can contact PLEO (www.pleo.on.ca).
- Take time for yourself by scheduling opportunities that allow you to relax, have fun and get away so you can come back to your loved one with a healthier outlook.
- Seek help for yourself. Consider counselling. A qualified therapist offers clarity, objectivity, solutions you might not have thought of and a place to deal safely with the emotions arising from supporting a loved one with mental illness.
Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario: www.ontario.cmha.ca
American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/topics/mental-
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/b
DO YOU NEED MORE HELP?
Contact a community organization like the Canadian Mental Health Association to learn more about support and resources in your area.
The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice. If you need advice, please consult a qualified health care professional. For further information or if you want to access our services at CMHA, please call 1-800-493-8271 or visit our web site atwww.cmha-east.on.ca If you are thinking of suicide, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free in Canada or dial 911.