How to Help someone with a Serious Mental Illness?

1,716 Views Updated: 20 Sep 2018
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How to Help someone with a Serious Mental Illness?

Did you recently notice changes in a friend’s mood, their behavior, energy, habits or personality? Do you think that something is not right? Did you try talking to them about the same? Did they express reluctance in talking about it? If they did, there are chances that your friend has a mental illness because it is a possible reason for their behavioral changes.

It is important to learn about mental illnesses and their signs and symptoms. Do not ignore the symptoms that you have observed because they will not go away by themselves.

Just know that each individual is different and not everyone experiencing a mental illness will illustrate the archetypal signs and symptoms.

How To Know If Someone Is Suffering From Mental Illness?

Here are some signs and symptoms which are usually connected with a mental illness, mostly depression or anxiety.

We all get worried or stressed from time to time. But constant anxiety can be a sign of mental illness. If you notice someone’s anxiety interfering in their daily routine, you should know that they are mentally unhealthy. Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headache, restlessness, and diarrhea are other symptoms of anxiety.

People who are mentally unhealthy are usually found to be unhappy or depressed. Irritation and lack of motivation are their constant moods. They lack the energy and are teary all the time.

We all have mood swings, but ours aren’t as sudden and dramatic as of someone who is mentally ill. They are either extremely angry or distressed or shockingly happy and excited.

A healthy mind and body call for 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Invariable changes in a person’s sleeping patterns could be a symptom of mental illness. Insomnia is a prominent sign of anxiety and depression. Excessive sleeping or lack of it could indicate depression or a sleeping disorder.

Intentional diet for weight loss is far different from a sudden loss of weight or a constant fluctuation in your weight. Mental issues can lead to an irregular diet causing an eating disorder. Depression and anxiety often impact the appetite and weight.

A person with mental illness is often seen to be withdrawn from life, and it can be observed if it leads to a major behavioral change. If a friend or family member is constantly isolating themselves, they may be suffering anxiety, depression or some other mental illness.

Excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs to cope with difficult times can also be a sign of mental illness.  

A mentally unhealthy person is sure to blame themselves for all the failures in life. They are highly under confident which makes them feel worthless. A friend or family member who constantly criticizes themselves is sure to suffer from a mental illness. Such feelings indicate that the person needs professional help.

Ongoing and prominent changes in the person’s behavior could be a sign that they are developing some mental health issues. A mental illness is sure to take a toll on the person’s emotional and thinking behavior.

How To Help Someone With Mental Illness?

If you have a friend or family member fighting through a mental illness, here’s how you can help them.

#1. Be Supportive

All you can do to help a friend or family member is provide them with the emotional support that they require. Express your concern and sympathy and tell them that they are not alone. Talk to them and discuss their problems openly. Offer your presence as and when they call for it.

#2. Be The Listener

When you are around somebody whose mental condition isn’t as healthy as yours, it is time that you give them an ear to listen. If they wish to talk about their mental health diagnosis, let them; do not jump to other topics. And while you do it, try to resist your temptations of giving unsolicited advice or dismissing their concerns. If your friend takes you as in confidence, do not break their trust. Discussing their mental health issues must have been difficult to them, respect it. Contact the CAPS if you feel overwhelmed by their suicidal intentions.

Start dialogues, not debates. If your family member doesn’t want to talk about their illness, you find out why they are not interested. Listen without trying to change them or their mind. Focus on building trust, and not the power struggle.

#3. Offer Your Hand For Help 

If you wish to be of help to someone with mental illness, mention about your intentions. Let them know that you’ll be happy to be of any help. You can drive them to their appointments, help them with school work, or just be there to hear them out. Even if your family member has difficulty telling you what would be helpful, ask them about how you can help. Be honest about the responsibilities that you can genuinely take care of.

#4. Be Concerned About Their Treatment

If you know that your friend or family member has a mental illness, suggest looking out for the best available resources which can offer them with effective care and attention.

#5. Tell Them That You Care

Just as we mentioned earlier, people with mental health disorder often withdraw themselves from family and friends. Their lack of interest in socializing ends up isolating them. While dealing with such a friend, keep reassuring them of your love and care for them. Continue to invite your friend for parties, get together or just to casually hang out. A consistent support will surely comfort them.

#6. Educate Yourself

If you are aware of your dear one’s mental health and wish to help them, it is better that you educate yourself for the same. This will help you to know what to expect. Browse through the symptoms and the coping measures of the specific mental illness that your friend is going through.

Inform yourself as much as possible about the illness being faced. Believe in the truth, not the myths. Local mental health associations are useful in giving you all the information required to understanding the illness and the methods of recovering.

#7. Support Your Friend’s Healthy Behaviors

A mental illness affects the emotional and thinking abilities of the person, so much so that their entire day’s routine changes for the worse. Suggest your friend to work on their eating habits, exercising routine and sleeping patterns. Eating healthy, regularly working out and getting enough sleep will surely help in alleviating their anxiety and depression. Try to keep them away from alcohol and drugs as they’ll make their medications less effective.

#8. Take Care Of Yourself

Dealing with a friend or family member suffering from a mental illness can become stressful and take a toll on your health as well. The burden of dealing with a chronic and severe illness within a family is stressful and the feelings that arise are conflicting. The healthier you stay; the better equipped you become to handle the demanding situations. If you feel too overwhelmed while taking care of your friend then, make sure you don’t get too involved, take out time for yourself, do something to relax your mind and regain your calm and connect with support groups or call for counseling if you feel the need

Important Reminders For Family Members And Loved Ones

Tough times call for patience and will-power. Seeing a family member suffer every day is a challenging task for the other members. Staying patient and positive is the only way you can deal with it.

#1. Keep Well And Stay Calm

Keep yourself well and pace yourself. We understand that the person suffering is a close member of your family, but over-extending yourself will only lead to further problems in the long run.

#2. Don’t Try To Be The Savior

Try to avoid falling into the role of ‘fixer’ and ‘savior’. No matter how much you love someone, love alone cannot bring them out of the misery.

#3. Offer Compassion And Trust

Offering objectivity, compassion and acceptance are valuable beyond measure. Your love and actions are enough to make a huge difference to the one who desperately craves for it.

#4. Have Realistic Expectations

Recovering from a mental illness is not an easy process. It is not a straight line process and cannot take place quickly. You need to keep showering them with love, acceptance,  and patience. A mental disorder affects the entire body and therefore requires much more time to recover. Do not expect the patient to behave perfectly normal suddenly. Give them their own time to recover.

Do you have any other suggestions through which we can help someone suffering from a mental illness? Let us know in the comment section below.

(Image Courtesy: 1. Rebel Circus Amen Clinics, 2., 3. Families, 4., 5. Reader's Digest, 6. Princeville by the Sea; Shawna Purcell (Featured Image Courtesy)
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Mental illnesses are common to find these days. With the kind of stress and isolation that we have been living in, more than half the population of our world is suffering from some or the other mental illness; be it depression or anxiety. Things can difficult when one of your close friend or family member goes through the feeling.
The main reasons for a mental illness are usually tension, isolation or lack of motivation in life. Old parents who live alone or adults who have suffered some major financial loss are the soft targets of depression and anxiety. They lack love, care and attention in their lives and hence suffer internally which eventually turns into a mental disease.
While the actual treatment is in the hands of the doctors, all we can do is provide them with them emotional support that they long for. Sit and talk to them about their problems that made them suffer. Make sure they take a balanced diet and adequate sleep.
Life becomes difficult when your mind and body disagrees to cooperate with each other. For the ones who suffer from such a mental imbalance, it is advisable that you do things that make you happy. We understand that you have problems in life but isolating yourself from other things in life is not the solution. Try to divert yourself and think about the positive things in life. do not let your problems take over your happiness.

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