Mental Health Recovery and Supportive Relationships

August 29, 2011 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Supportive relationships are important to your mental health recovery. Whether family or friends, it's good to know who you can count on--and who you can't.

I am blessed with fantastic and supportive relationships in my family. When I was twelve years old and in the children's psychiatric hospital, my parents and siblings would visit whenever they could. They brought me chocolate and teddy bears, tears and promises that I would be home soon. But bipolar disorder, or any mental illness really, can either destroy relationships or enhance them. And that's okay. Let some relationships go, and make sure you keep the supportive relationships.

Recovering Supportive Relationships When Living with a Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness, it takes time to become stable; finding medications that work, support, and patience isn't easy. As hard as it was for me to wonder if I would ever get better, I expect it was extremely difficult for my family as well. Later in life, my mother told me she never gave up. While I was in and out of hospitals, abusing drugs and drinking, they waited for me to come to them. And I did.

Not all of us are so lucky to have support like this. People, even family, are scared of the mental illness diagnosis; they might turn the other way. Friends, the same ones who laughed and cried with you before, become uncomfortable with the illness and they don't call as much as they once did if they call at all. People do not understand that as frightened by the diagnosis as they are, we as patients, as people, are equally frightened, if not more.

It's never easy to repair relationships that were negatively impacted by a mental illness or a relapse. But it's important that you find out who cares enough to be part of your support system over the long-term. When you become ill, you will want people in your life who alert you to any psychiatric symptoms you are unable to see. This is very important. These people are part of your support system and as important as other professionals on your mental health care team.

I know that some relationships cannot be repaired, and that's okay. The people who walked away when you were sick, who were afraid and unsure of the illness, might not ever feel comfortable with it. Sometimes, as people, we need to understand and let them walk away.

Mental illness, before it is treated, can damage relationships insurmountably but it is in this way that we find out who will be there for us when we need help and, in turn, we can help because everyone falls from time to time.

Friends and family can sit with you through the tough times, or they can walk away, but if you live with mental illness every day of your life, supporting yourself is important. You are your own support system: remember that.

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2011, August 29). Mental Health Recovery and Supportive Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

Judith Barreto
February, 24 2012 at 12:02 pm

it's hard to have a mental condition, and not having the support and compassion necessary while you are in recovery.My kids are confused and scared and my husband abandon me. I am trying to do my best and do what I can following Doctor's recommendation but is hard to deal with everything on my own. Judith

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
February, 25 2012 at 8:00 am

Hi, Judith!
I understand completely. It's hard for us to express how we feel but equally hard for others, even those who love us, to understand. It can be messy, but it gets better with me. Thank you so much for the comment,

September, 1 2011 at 3:11 am

As part of that integral support system, let me stress that lying and denial are part of the diagnosis. It probably would be a good idea if there is a code word to be used when the situation has reached critical levels. To a patient, even one that is stable, very believable feelings and voices can sidetrack years of being well when the right meds just don't work anymore. Have an escape plan in case this happens. A person you trust could have a word established ahead of time and use it only if the situation has reached critical proportions. As a patient in control of your own well-being, you need to understand that when that word is spoken, the need to let others who care take action for your sake. Living with a diagnosis doesn't have to be a life of giving up your rights and living with guilt, but it needs to be a life well managed. The more you set up "flags" to know when things are off and know to manage the situation, the more normal an existence you will create for yourself.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
September, 1 2011 at 6:27 am

Hi, FLmom:
Thank you for this wonderful comment. I could not agree more. It's hard, being the person who has the illness (even more so when you are currently well), to make this plan. It does need to be well managed--this is the only way recovery is possible. I have a plan with my partner, family and psychiatrist. Also, support groups if I need them.
Thank you so much for these thoughts,

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