Dealing with a loved one with Mental Illness

Liza Simrell, LPCC-SWillow Wisdom

Is there someone in your life who you love and care about going through a mental illness (depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, etc)? Does it feel like you are living it with them? Are you lost on how to approach/cope with this relationship?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the following suggestions can help you to cope with a loved one who is experiencing mental illness.

Knowledge is definitely power in this situation. Not all mental illnesses are the same. The more you can educate yourself on the specific mental illness your loved one has, the better you will understand how and why you cope with this persons disorder. There may be classes or books or you may be able to talk with a mental health professional in order to get this information.

Be patient. In a world where we want immediate gratification, that has to be far from your sights with mental illness. Prepare for the long-haul. There will be periods of really rough times and periods of great times and then rough times again. It will eb and flow depending on the disorder and the persons willingness to implement change. It takes time to make changes and it may be something this person will have to deal with the rest of their lives. Empathy and validation are two great tools you can use to show you understand your loved one. Sometimes there is no “try harder” button and this is where they are. Your support and patience will go a long way.

You alone can’t fix this and there is not a “quick” fix. Encourage outside professional help and help from other support systems (groups, family, friends). You do not have to take this on yourself. If your loved one is not willing to get help, then it is recommended that you seek professional assistance in order to learn how to cope and problem solve their mental illness in your life.

Have a conversation with them about what helps and how your behavior influences their mental illness. Identify healthy ways to communicate and work together.

Lastly, take care of yourself! You have to fill your cup up or you won’t have anything to give to your loved one. Do things that relax you 1-2 times a week for 15-30 minutes.