Discovering that a loved one is struggling with a mental illness can be very difficult to cope with. Most families aren’t prepared for it. At times it can be very physically and emotionally challenging. Below are a few tips to help with coping.
1. Educate Yourself – Researching your loved one’s mental illness will help you to gain a better understanding of what he or she is experiencing. That may allow you to offer better support to the loved one. It can also help break down misconceptions like the idea that the loved one should be able to “just snap out of it.”
2. Recognize Your Feelings – Many family members feel guilt or shame when they discover their loved one is dealing with mental illness. While these feelings are common and should be recognized as such, it’s important for family members to know they didn’t cause the mental illness and they can’t cure it.
3. Find Support -Many families who have a loved one with a mental illness share common experiences despite the specific diagnosis. Attending a support group can help normalize some of the feelings and experiences as well as provide additional strategies to manage the loved one’s mental illness. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for families to reach out for the support they need because of the stigma that can be attached to mental illness. Don’t let that stop you. Seek support from family, friends, religious leaders, support groups, and mental health professionals whenever necessary.
4. Take Care of Yourself -You’ve probably heard it said that you can’t take care of others without first taking care of yourself. There’s some truth in that. If you’re physically and emotionally exhausted it makes it much harder to provide the support your loved one needs. Make it a priority to take some time to yourself to recharge.
5. Get Involved – Talk with members of your loved one’s treatment team. Give them another perspective than the one they receive from your loved one. Ask the treatment team how you can be most helpful and what expectations you should have for your loved one. You can also get involved by emailing local politicians and working towards improving the overall mental health system.
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