How to Help Someone with a Mental Illness
I talk to many people who want to help a person with a mental illness. Often the people they want to help are loved ones who have just been diagnosed with a mental illness and those who want to help feel powerless.
The “helpers” have a hard job, but let me just say, we love you for it.
Be a Powerhouse of Support for Someone With Mental Illness
Let’s just start by recognizing that mental illness is a real illness and you can’t fix it any more than you can fix cancer. I appreciate that you want to take the pain away, but please understand, you can’t. You need to accept that.
That being said, you can have an extremely important role in helping us get better. Support and love are the best things in the world.
When someone is diagnosed they may feel defective, unlovable and like they will be abandoned. If you can stand by the person with love and support and with a reminder that you’re not going anywhere, that is a magnificent gift.
Supporting a Sick Person is Hard
It’s really tough to weather the storms of a mental illness. It’s tough for the person with the illness and it’s tough for those around them. We know it’s hard. That’s why it’s such an amazing gift to try to help.
What You Can Do to Support Someone with a Mental Illness
- Tell them you love them, support them and won’t leave them.
- Tell them that they are not broken and they are the person they have always been, but they just have an illness
- Learn about their illness. The amount of information available out there on any illness is daunting. If you can fill in some of the blanks and do some of the work, particularly in the beginning, that’s a great help. Plus it will give you insight into what they’re going through.
- Help them get treatment. Drive them to appointments. Make sure they have their medications. Make sure they are talking to their doctor or therapist.
- Check in. Make sure they are doing OK. Make sure they are following the treatment plan.
- Offer to take care of a chore. Offer to make dinner. Offer to vacuum. The smallest thing is wonderful.
- Ask the person what they need. We’re all different and what works for us is different so the person with a mental illness can tell you best what they need.
What You Need to Do for You
Remember, get help for yourself. It’s hard to be there for a sick person. It can be really hard on you. Get your own support. It’s OK to say you need help too.
Make sure you create some boundaries. If you do everything on the list you will fall over of exhaustion. Pick reasonable things you can do. No one can do it all.
Your Support is a Gift
Whatever you do, know that your support is a gift. We might not be able to tell you at this moment. We might be too wrapped up in our illness to tell you how wonderful you are. Other people would run, but you didn’t. Your support doesn’t have to be perfect to be amazing.
Tracy, N. (2011, March 28). How to Help Someone with a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/03/how-to-help-someone-with-a-mental-illness
Author: Natasha Tracy
I'm not sure if you're suggesting that your niece has a mental illness, but I wouldn't jump to that conclusion. A change in behavior like that can be brought on by many things. If you find that you're hitting a wall with her, I recommend family therapy. Most issues can be worked out that way.
- Natasha Tracy
1. Are there any inpatient centers where he can stay for a shot-term period that are affordable? We are unable to manage...lost my job bc I had to take time off too many times. But we also know...3-7 day stay at the same center isn't going to help. Also it requires voluntary admission...but we don't want to wait for an emergency like in the past (all 3 times, cops had to be called). He's made major strides (no longer violent), but needs help. How can we help?
2. Should we let him get caught? Or continue try preventing crisis where cops are called...it's impossible to follow him around everywhere he goes.
What degree should you be involved in the happenings of mental illness so that you can remain functioning and healthy?
When is it time to step back, set boundaries and let he/she do the heavy lifting and lean on the mental health professionals?
All of these questions are relevant. I have come to the conclusion it is necessary to step back as it helps both you and the person(s) you love and care for. I am in my mid 30's and I have been dealing with mental illness in my family since I was 5 years old with my mother who is bi-polar and on medication long-term and now my youngest sister recently diagnosed as bi-polar with psychosis and currently hospitalized.
I have also dated several people with untreated mental illness of similar nature to my mother and my sister.
My partner of almost 4 years has OCD including relationship OCD however is very self aware and functioning -- I think this helps to develop awareness. He knows my life and I know his, he knows things I process in relation to his thoughts and actions and he knows I pick up on everything like a sponge. He loves me and I love him and we do so with passion and with honesty - coming back to this simple way is at the heart of our relationship. We have to have checks and balances and also it is okay to be upset with the understanding it is being worked through. I could have chosen to run away but I know that it is work in progress and am enjoying the process of deepening love and hard work.
For those in a relationship situation, understanding the nature of illness and how it may manifest in your relationship is immensely helpful. I have to be particularly aware that I am sensitive to his moods and projections, positive or negative and know when to step back and give him space and when to talk it out. I have to let him make his own realizations about his illness -- this applies to both family and romantic relationships - it should not be different whether it is your mother, sister, brother, father or your partner.
Remain aware and do not hide anything even to yourself. Have boundaries with what you will and will not accept and take on as your own. Let the other person know that these things are needed to live life in a healthy way. The illness of someone else will be a part of your life and on your mind and in your heart but it is not your job, your burden or your task to take on at your complete expense to "fix" it all.
For those who are family members dealing with mental illness and/or have a partner that is as well -- I really feel for you. And yes, it is okay for you to say that you are exhausted by the effects of mental illness. I have been working at this and it makes me feel better knowing that I have not hidden my feelings as they matter as much as everyone else's feelings. There is an unpredictability and long-term nature that is all encompassing with mental illness. We do not know what is in someone else's mind truly as we can only follow the cues and listen. Real progress and understanding is attainable for everyone, whatever the result or ending of the life story.
I just want to let others know it is okay to step back for your own health until you can appropriately set boundaries, learn about and understand the nature of the mental illness and appreciate how it affects the person you love and care for. It is okay to go and talk to someone yourself to learn how to cope. Be fiercely optimistic in loving others and work and try to love yourself in the process. Life can be a fine and beautiful balance.
My sister lives in Delhi , and she is very badly depressed ( I don't know reason of depression ) but I live in Varanasi , so for metal treatment I need to bring her to varanasi for doctors support.
How to bring her to varanasi if she strictly refuses my request?
She is a married woman with 2 children, her weight is approximately 70-80 kg, so how could I mange to bring her home????
My boyfriend he has been depressed for around four years, on and off, tried almost everything he could try: different meds, ECT, even now he just had ketamine infusion. But still the doctor just told him it doesn't work on him. I don't know how to comfort him this is too much and too harsh even for me. This is so cruel to him and I couldn't even imagine how he feels when he knows that even ketamine doesn't work on him. He is really treatment resistant.
I just want to know how I can possibly make him feel better. I'm thinking about helping him on changing daily life schedule. But he sometimes told me he is so tired of talking about his depression. I don't wanna make him run away from me since at least now if I talk to him he still response. Just won't talk to me first usually it's me bring up conversation. I can't risk anything that would push him away.
Please if anyone can give me some advice that would be very helpful. Thanks. And I wish you all best. At least we have each other.
Have you tried reading “I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help
By Xavier Amador. It’s available on-line at Cavershams for $23.50. It’s written by a psychologist. His brother Henry (a schizophrenic) wouldn’t take his medication either so he came up with a way to talk to his brother to get him to comply. There’s also Youtube videos on line about this author talking about his techniques
From my experience, various types of therapy such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) (for negative thinking) or Social Rhythm Therapy can be useful. If professional therapy is not an option, then there's also self help workbooks out there for bipolars if the person is willing to put in the time and effort to use them
There's also different classes of psychiatric medications that can be helpful such as mood stabilizers. Unfortunately it can take along time to find the right one or a combination of meds that work well. Some people give up after years of trying out of sheer frustration, constantly feeling like a lab experiment. We all react differently to medication and some of the side effects can be really awful. Then there's the issue of stigma to deal with. It can be overwhelming.
Of course the usual, eat right, exercise and get enough rest is important but especially for someone with this illness
A book called Loving Someone With Bipolar Disorder by Julie A Fast is also very popular for loved ones
Hope this helps
In much the same way that an alcoholic has to want to get well so does someone with bipolar disorder. People drink because it makes them feel good. The same holds true for people with bipolar mania or hypomania. Their illness makes them feel good too (at least part of the time). It's true that there are a high number of people with bipolar disorder that drink as well. That's why it's so darn hard to convince them that they need help. Sometimes an alcoholic ends up in jail and sometimes a bipolar ends up in a psych ward (that can also feel like a jail, by the way especially if they are involuntarily committed)
The best time to get their attention is on the downturn. For the alcoholic, often that's when they hit bottom. For the bipolar it's when they are in a deep depression.
A word of caution though antidepressants can throw someone with bipolar disorder back into mania or hypomania (it's one of the things that distinguishes a depression from a bipolar depression ) so they are rarely prescribed for someone with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately not much of the medication out there for people with bipolar disorder is as helpful for depression as it is for mania or hypomania. Many of these medications can be very sedating which often leads family and friends to believe that a person is 'better' when really they are not, especially if they are very depressed (just the stigma alone of having a mental illness can be very depressing for the individual). There are also many troubling side effects to these medications as there are with any other medications. Some can even be life threatening. Hopefully all that will change over time as new and improved medications are developed.
Sorry to be such a downer but that's the truth. I hope this helps to shed some light on the situation
Taking away my personal power or railroading me into finding help only caused me to dig my heals in more and reject all help that was being offered.
Nobody likes to be forced to do anything, especially when it makes them feel awful as many of the psychotropics medications do. It can take a long time and be very trying for both a patient and yes their family as well to get the medications right. Remember too that medication is only half the answer. There's also many effective forms of counselling that can be effective too in combination with medication. Sometimes it takes shopping around for a compassionate competent psychiatrist (for the physical aspects) and a psychologist (for the mental aspects)
Ultimately your daughter has to want to get well. Try to think of something she values that would be a good motivator.
In reality unless she is a minor or legally a danger to herself or others there's not a whole lot you can do except maybe try your best to be supportive by gently and lovingly encouraging her to seek help.
Yes it's true that many bipolar individuals lack insight while in the throws of their illness and they may need to be involuntarily committed. Bipolar disorder is also a progressive illness as it tends to get worse over time without the right help. Psychosis can be a possibility that can be very scary for an individual because everything seems so real when in fact it isn't.
Also remember to you don't have to take the abuse your daughter dishes out. It's okay to set some healthy boundaries for yourself as well
You can lovingly lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Metaphorically speaking they have to be thirsty enough to do that for themselves but if they get too sick then the situation becomes more serious and you need to be forceful, ie get them Sectioned
He is now blaming everyone else but himself.
I have no support system out here.he is in complete
Denial.i just don't know how to help him.
We took in a young man 5 months ago and it comes through very strongly he has mental health issues. I have spoken to his family who have said he was under mental health but refused all appointments and treatments and a full diagnoses was never made. I now feel like I am trapped in my own home and fear for mine and my children's safety as he has now started videoing himself with weapons. He also has a thing with playing with fire. His eating habits are way out there and his moods are always up and down. None of his family are willing to help. I have contacted a few places to try get help but with no help from any of them we are stuck in a hole that just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I have a 2 yr old girl who I am majorly concerned about as I have just been made aware of some strange going on with his little sister. I am hoping you can give me a push in the right direction to get him the help he needs. I myself suffer with depression which has escalated over the past couple of weeks and I am feeling imprisoned in my own home. Any suggestions of anyone I can contact would be highly appreciated. Thanks
I was hoping you may have some advice. My sister-in-law has some type of mood disorder. Her moods go up and down. Like clockwork, at the dinner table, someone may make a remark that sets her off and she will cry and run off. Her husband and son will immediately run after her. We always walk on egg shells. I have gotten skilled at trying to keep things on an even keel and diffuse situations if I feel they are starting. She tajes care of her elderly mother who confided in me that her moods are up and down and it is very difficult to cope. We want to talk to her and urge her to get help. Everyone is afraid to do it. Prior to her visits I get physically ill in anticipation. Do you have any advice on how we could proceed? Thank you!
I'm sorry about your sister and I think it sounds like she is mentally ill and needs medical treatment and a psychologist.
It is very common for people not to seek or cooperate with treatment. This is actually part of the illness. You may have to get her sectioned, according to the laws of your country. This may be difficult if she is not a danger to anyone, but she is a danger to herself as the illness is destroying her relationships and alienating her from her support network.
Putting someone away for treatment is a scary thing to do but you have her best interests at heart.
I have bipolar and did not seek treatment for about a year after symptoms had started. It would have been good if the people around me had been more knowledgeable to get the help earlier.
It is good to see a counsellor if you have a mental illness but there is not much point if you are at the stage of acute paranoias as you described your sister is doing. She need medication and protection. There is hope of improvement.
I was wondering if anyone had some advice to help me regarding my sister in law (please see post "Laura says: March 27, 2013 at 9:11 am" ).
She improved earlier this year but is now back in the same frame of mind as Christmas 2012, we are at our wit's end on how we can help her as she refuses all medical treatment...
Thanks in advance if anyone has any advice!
Angry,bored,lonely which leads her to think and get mad and talk by herself as if she's speaking with someone. Banging ,throwing & breaking things in the house. constant slamming doors and screaming. Yelling outside & at others outside minding there own buisness. Seems to always want to argue with someone( maybe because of the need to interact socially with someone) Little bit Illusional. Most of times- Unable to have a normal conversation without getting angry or letting the other person speak. Says things that aren't true. 5050 She is either angry, irrational and cant speak sense into her or she is calm and able to conversate. Home all day bored so is constantly cleaning, rearranging furniture, and wanting to throw things. Unsatisfied with whats in the house. Most times has lost the will to enjoy life or do normal things. At times deppressed. Other personal problems affect her to feel deppressed or angry. Cant control her anger. Feels alone as if she has no one, at times seems as if she wants help or screams for it. Unable & not well to work. Home all day & day after day so has suddenly wanting to leave the house & has started to go to stores accomponied by me, but is embarresed of how she looks of how she walks( fractured hip) and does not want to use her walker(marchet) anymore. And is still unstable mentally. Constant speaking to someone who isnt there because of being alone home for so long. ** In her mind she is mostly always right and cant talk to her or convince her, cant explain her anything at times, always her way, doesnt want to get help or doesn't believes she needs any. Doesn't want to do anything, doesn't want to go out, everything gets her angry, can't get her to do anything important, doesnt want to do her medical card or got to hospital for her leg, says she doesnt need to, makes it hard for her and us**
I'm sorry to hear about your brother. How long ago was it that he was discharged from the army? There may be a way to appeal that discharge, asking instead for a medical discharge. It depends on circumstances, I'm sure, though. The reason I think of that is because I know someone who finally got a medical discharge from the army, but it wasn't easy to get and he hadn't been previously discharged, dishonorably or any other way. So I don't know. But it may be worth a shot.
I think it's worth a shot because that dishonorable discharge may very well be what's contributing to your brother's refusal to look at his illness. Think about it. How would you respond? It's not a conscious choice necessarily, but it certainly makes sense as a natural reaction. At least to me it does.
Lastly, you say his diagnosis is 'bipolar schizophrenia'. That's not really one diagnosis. It's two. Have they diagnosed him with both, one or the other? Sometimes there may be a diagnosis like schizoaffective bipolar disorder, which basically means the schizophrenic-like symptoms happen when he cycles moods. But the two disorders are very closely linked; more studies are being done to look at this. I recall reading one summary review of a study that suggested perhaps these two disorders are really one on a larger spectrum.
Hang in there.
I am so sorry to hear of your predicament. From your message, I gather that maybe your grandparents live with your uncle? I also get the sense that you are grown and not living with your parents or in the same town as the rest of your family. ??
My first bit of "advice" is to remember about basic needs. With how you described the situation, it seems (at least to me) that your grandfather is not having his needs met, by his own will or the wills of others. Laying on the ground for 24 or more hours, and having bowel movements without any cleaning, is indeed a serious matter. You need to get him help.
Do you have any siblings you could talk to about this? Cousins? That would certainly be helpful, so you don't feel like you are alone. The next thing to do would be to look for your state's (where your grandfather resides) Department of Human Services. Google exactly what I just typed in and the name of your state. Browse around that site, keeping an eye out for anything that looks like it may relate to 'mental health', 'seniors' or 'aging', 'independent living' etc. You should be able to find a number somewhere that you can call and someone will be able to tell you what can be done for your grandfather...as long as someone gets the ball rolling, and it sounds like you may be the one give it that motion.
Good luck, and please let me know if there's anything I can do for you.
You can't change or cure him but you most certainly can help him and make his life better. You can't change your other relatives either or the family dynamic. Just be yourself.
You're in a really tough spot, to be sure. Many people have been there though. It does get better.
With regards to contact, it is a personal thing, and of course, you know him, but I would suggest making a final contact something like, "I want to respect your wishes and not contact you, but I want you to know that I am there for you when you are ready."
I don't think contacting someone repeatedly who has asked you not to is beneficial, but, like I said, you know him and it is personal. I believe respecting his wishes, at least in the short term, is better. I can hear that you want to help so much, but until he is ready, there really isn't anything you can do.