Knowing how to help a family member with mental illness requires knowledge about the mental illness, the mental health system, and insight into your family member’s personal situation.
Last night, I received another e-mail cry for help from a reader.
“I began reading “Ben Behind his Voices” last night and have barely put it down. Our son seems to be following Ben’s track. We don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?”
I wish I had all the answers.
Why A Memoir About Mental Illness?
I wrote Ben Behind His Voices for many reasons. One of my goals was to help people with the answer to the big question, “How do I help my family member with mental illness?” Many are going through the stages of discovering and treating mental illness in a loved one and I wanted to help them not feel quite so alone. So I am always thrilled to hear that reading our story helps. The mental health blogs here on HealthyPlace serve the same purpose.
Memoirs serve a purpose. They certainly continue to help me, as they have in the past, as it is human nature to respond to stories and retain the experience. Still, I have no magic formula for success. I can only share what has worked for us, and encourage others to do the same.
So, when a reader asks for suggestions as to what to do when “a loved one won’t take meds” or “the psychiatrist keeps blaming our parenting” or “I don’t understand the mental health system” – I offer up my perspective, but for actions to take, I refer them to the resources of experts. I know my son, but I don’t know the system the way others do.
Mental Health Book Resources for Families
These mental health books are invaluable when it comes to providing insight into how to help a family member with mental illness.
Defying Mental Illness. If you’ve been looking for one book that contains well-organized answers to these and many more questions, for both people diagnosed with mental illness and for those who want to be a part of recovery, then this is for you. Authors Paul Komarek and Andrea Schroer pool their expertise as professionals who have navigated these waters to create a wonderful resource for families looking for concrete, accessible information. They state, in the introduction, that the goal was to write “a book that is not too technical, and suitable for community outreach work.” This they have accomplished – and more.
The Family Guide to Mental Health Care. This is a brand new book written by Lloyd I. Sederer, MD, with a foreword by Glenn Close (yes, the actress, also family member and founder of BringChange2Mind). According to the book description, “In this book, families can find the answers to their most urgent questions. What medications are helpful and are some as dangerous as I think? Is there a way to navigate privacy laws so I can discuss my adult daughter’s treatment with her doctor? Is my teenager experiencing typical adolescent distress or an illness? From understanding depression, bipolar illness and anxiety to eating and traumatic disorders, schizophrenia, and much more, readers will learn what to do and how to help.” I have read the book and agree.
When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness: A Handbook for Family, Friends, and Caregivers, by Rebecca Woolis (New York: Tarcher, 1992). Once again, a practical and well-laid-out guide with easy-to-read chapter guideposts, from understanding treatments and the course of mental illness to dealing with housing, jobs, and stigma; excellent appendix about medications, and resource directory.
How to Live with a Mentally Ill Person: A Handbook of Day-to-Day Strategies, by Adamec, Christine Adamec (New York: Wiley, 1996). This book is exactly what the subtitle says it is—it is full of practical suggestions, from how to recognize symptoms to what to do to plan for your relative’s future; very empowering and positive in tone, while extremely realistic.
I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Accept Treatment (Peconic, NY: Vida Press, 2007). Author Xavier Amador is a psychologist and also a sibling whose older brother suffered from schizophrenia. Want to understand why your relative denies his illness? Want a plan to deal with medication noncompliance? This is a great book that combines science and personal experience.
You can find additional help from the mental health books listed in the HealthyPlace.com Bookstore.