Having a family member with a mental illness is not easy. Yes, this person is suffering, and it truly is a tragedy, but that does not lessen the grief and pain you may feel as a result. It’s quite natural and admirable that you want to help. Know that there are things that you can do, but at the same time, understand that some things are under our control, and some are not. With all the being said, below you can find some advice on how to handle mental issues within the family.
Be cautiously optimistic
Understand that cautious optimism is the way to go. Too often families will believe that a troubled family member had been cured by a longer hospitalization or a couple of therapy sessions. And while the improvements may be significant, they may not be permanent. It’s important for the troubled individual to not fall back to old bad habits, and to implement what he or she has been taught.
Furthermore, expectations that are too high may put too much pressure on the troubled family member. Still, create an environment and atmosphere of relaxed growth. Allow this person to heal, and to develop, don’t put pressures on them, but at the same time let them know that they can get well.
Get some assistance
Of course, this is quite specific to the place you live in. It’s a sad fact that some countries have more robust mental healthcare systems when compared to others. Australia, for example, has some of the best healthcare in the world. On the other hand, some less developed countries simply do not have the means or the resources to invest in mental health.
Still, if you have the opportunity, you should definitely seek out some assistance. While you shouldn’t force somebody to see a therapist if they don’t want to, asking around is still a good idea, just in case. Furthermore, a therapist can give you much more in-depth advice on what to do in this situation. If you are fortunate to have access to a good psychiatrist, then (staying with our Australia example) finding an experienced family mediator Sydney inhabitants can provide you with valuable assistance.
Learn more about the illness
Educate yourself as much as possible about their illness. Be it bipolar disorder, clinical depression, schizophrenia… you should learn about it as much as you can. By understanding the illness, you will better understand the struggles they face, as well as reactions that may seem callous and strange. You will learn how to figure out when they are speaking, and when the illness is doing the talking.
This also allows you to help them better, to prevent any misunderstandings, and to notice red flags of the situation worsening. It also makes you much more empathic, while at the same time teaches you when you should draw a line. Essentially, it demystifies the entire issue.
Offer empathy and hope
Know that this person is suffering greatly, through no fault of their own. By showing them that you are there for them, by explaining that you understand (or are trying to understand) the situation, you allow them to heal. Being genuinely hopeful and expressing said hope will serve as a ray of light in difficult times.
Take care of yourself
This is not an enviable situation to be in. Feelings of guilt, shame, and anger are completely normal. You may feel anger at this person at times, and then feel ashamed of this feeling. People often feel guilty about not doing anything sooner. Know that what’s done is done and that doing your best is simply all you can do.
Furthermore, in order to fully help this person, you need to take care of yourself as well. A certain amount of self-sacrifice will be necessary, let’s not beat around the bush here, but don’t run yourself into the ground. If you yourself get sick or bitter, you will not be able to assist them properly. Practice some self-care, take breaks, and set clear limits. Seek some counseling yourself, you will feel better, and will know how to handle the situation much better.
This is not the end of the world. Many people had these issues, and many survived them and got better. If you create an atmosphere of trust and empathy then you have practically done half the work. Just educate yourself properly on these issues, get help if you can, and take care of yourself.
Audrey Taylor was born in San Francisco, and moved to Adelaide at the age of five. Marketer researcher and social media manager on hold, full – time mommy of a cheerful two-year-old. Graduated from Queensford college, worked in a couple of marketing agencies across Australia, eager to learn more about business and share her experiences. Traveled across Europe. Her hobbies include: home decor, fashion, travel, music, old movies.