How Should Family Members Help Someone With a Mental Illness?

woman in distress

When first learning of your loved one’s illness, it may feel easy to become panicked, overwhelmed, and confused. Do things change now? How am I supposed to navigate our relationship? These questions are normal and valid – we want to be there for our loved ones, but we may not understand everything they are going through. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes that mental illness does not only impact the one involved – it affects friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers, family members, and others in the community. states that learning about mental health issues can lead to earlier treatment of your loved one, improved recognition of signs or symptoms, and great understanding and compassion.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has noted that many people with mental illness experience social withdrawal, difficulty functioning at school and work, problems with memory and thinking, feeling disconnected from reality, changes in eat, sleep, and hygiene habits, substance abuse, mood changes, and suicidal thoughts. While these may seem like terrifying symptoms, supporting your loved one fully can help reduce these. Psychology Today has provided several ways that you can support your loved one:

  1. Inform yourself as much as possible. Learn as much about your loved one’s mental illness as possible so that you can familiarize yourself and learn to help yourself – and them – cope with some of the difficult symptoms.
  2. Begin dialogues, not debates. Listen to your loved one without trying to change their mind – incite respectful conversations.
  3. Do what needs to be done. Sometimes taking care of our loved one means requiring they attend treatment or placing them in involuntary hospitalization. If they are very suicidal, this could save their life.
  4. Instead of guessing, ask. Ask them what you can do to be more supportive. Give room for empowerment and self-awareness, and be honest about what you can do.
  5. Seek help for yourself. Learning about this mental illness and supporting your loved one can take a lot of time, effort, and energy. Make sure that you are getting the help you need.
  6. Become involved in support groups. Involve yourself in groups for both family members and to better understand and support your loved one. This could also be a great safe place for open discussion.




If you have an addiction or want to help your loved one, call us today at 888-958-7511. Avalon Malibu provides individualized treatment, meaning that we will do everything possible to best suit your needs. You deserve to be happy. Take control over your life today and give us a call.

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