How to Help After a Loved One Has Been Diagnosed With a Mental Health Disorder

For some, being diagnosed with a mental illness can bring on so many negative feelings. One may think life, as they know it will change for the worse and they will never be able to have a “normal” life. However, for others, it may be a relief now having a name attached to what they’ve been experiencing and they can begin the recovery process to regain control of their life.

Regardless of how the individual feels after receiving the diagnosis, having a loved one involved is instrumental to the mental health recovery process. Here are a few things a loved one can do to aid in the recovery process.

  1. Be Supportive: Regardless of the way the person is feeling after receiving the diagnosis you can provide support by being a listening ear.
  2. Stay away from “you understand”: It is impossible to fully understand what your loved one is experiencing and saying “you understand” can make a person defensive. Empathize with them and let them know you can see they are having a hard time.
  3. Don’t tell them to “snap out of it”: This is a big NO NO. Many do not understand the concept of mental illness. A mental illness is a brain disorder and is not something one can easily get rid of. It takes a combination of psychotherapy, medication, coping skills, support groups, etc. to alleviate the symptoms of a mental illness. Please, keep this in mind when trying to understand what they are experiencing.
  4. Ask your loved one with a mental illness how you can help: Sometimes we want to have all the answers and we neglect to simply to ask, what can I do to help? Try simply asking your loved one how you can help. This not only outlines what they expect from you without you having to guess, it is also a source of empowerment; letting them know they are in control.
  5. Educate yourself but don’t assume: We’ve all heard terms associated with mental disorders thrown around in our everyday lives but do we truly know what it means for an individual to be diagnosed with bipolar, schizophrenia or PTSD? If you don’t, research it. Learning about the symptoms, causes and treatments can be very helpful in supporting your loved one. However, you don’t want to assume that everything you read applies to them.

These are just a few tips to remember after your loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Please remember, everyone’s journey will look different.

If you need more information about mental illness and how to support a loved one, please visit www.nami.org. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health difficulty, please visit http://hopeandhealingcenter.org/support/ for more information and supportive services

 

Jamaica Harrell

Hope and Healing Center & Insitute Social Work Intern

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