Mental illness is not at all uncommon. In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the United States experienced mental illness in 2019, and 16.5% of American youth between the ages of six and seventeen did as well.
Sadly, only 43.8% of adults and 50.6% of youth received treatment for their mental illnesses in 2019. The average delay between the onset of a mental illness and treatment for that illness is eleven years; many people do not even know that they can be diagnosed and helped, and some who have been diagnosed refuse or do not have access to treatment.
Furthermore, many people who suffer from mental illness turn to drugs or alcohol use and abuse to cope. 3.8% of all adults in the United States can be diagnosed with what’s known as a dual diagnosis; for them, a substance abuse disorder and mental illness are co-occurring. As many as one-fifth of adults who experience mental illness also end up with a dependence on drugs or alcohol along the way.
If you love someone who is experiencing mental illness, it can be heartbreaking. You want to do everything possible to help him or her. However, knowing what to do and how to do it can seem overwhelming and challenging at first.
Read on to learn about the many ways you can offer support to a loved one who is suffering from mental illness. With your support, the two of you can move forward together on a better future.
1. Know the Signs of Mental Illness
As mentioned above, many people who experience mental illness live for long periods with their condition undiagnosed. They may not even have any idea that they are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD, or another condition. However, as someone who loves them, you may notice changes in their personalities that may signal a problem, and you can encourage them to get help.
Unless you are a professional in the field, it will be impossible for you to diagnose a mental illness on your own.
But, there are a number of different things that can indicate an internal struggle. If your loved one suddenly no longer has an interest in hobbies and other interests they used to love, often seem sad or angry for no reason, or don’t seem to enjoy anything anymore, they may be battling a mental illness.
Lack of emotions, declining physical health, changes in eating and sleeping habits, anxiousness, and frequent absences from school or work can also imply a problem. People suffering from mental illness may begin using drugs or alcohol to cope, or may use them on a more regular basis can be a sign, as can the expression of feelings of hopelessness, or the avoidance of friends and family members.
If you see these signs arise in a loved one, it’s possible that he or she is suffering from mental illness. Approach your friend or family member with a calm attitude and great care; encourage him or her to speak to a professional about the challenges that he or she is facing.
Some people are hesitant to seek help because they believe there is a stigma attached. Remind them that that is not the case, that many people need support, and that they will feel better after getting help.
2. Learn About the Illness
Once your loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness, take time to learn all you can about it. You may have many misconceptions about the effects, symptoms, and course of the illness and you want to be educated about it so you can offer the best support possible. You should also take time to learn about the treatments so you can know what side effects to expect and what improvements you may see.
3. Encourage Treatment and Help Your Loved One Find It
Some people may be hesitant to go to treatment or they may start out enthusiastic but find that their motivation and drive diminishes in time. You can be a supportive and encouraging force that can keep them on a healthy path. Help your friend or family member schedule and keep track of upcoming appointments, and provide transportation as needed as well. Ask about the appointment afterwards and check in on a regular basis to determine new ways to offer support as the process continues.
4. Be a Good Listener
One of the biggest and best things that you can do to help a loved one that is experiencing mental illness is to be the best listener you can be. Set aside time to speak with him or her on a regular basis in a safe and comfortable area. Ease into conversations; ask questions but don’t be too pushy. Use active listening strategies, and be respectful of all that your friend or family member chooses to share with you.
5. Don’t Criticize
If your friend or family member experiencing mental illness skips therapy appointments, doesn’t take his or her medication, or begins to slip back into bad habits, you may be tempted to criticize him or her, but don’t. This can set back progress that has already been achieved. Don’t assume things about the person or their situation, and never be patronizing or condescending.
If you find yourself doing any of these things, simply walk away. You are doing more harm than good.
You should always encourage and support your loved one. Positivity is the key to effective support.
6. Support a Healthy Lifestyle
One final thing you can do to support someone who is suffering from mental illness is to encourage a lifestyle that is healthy overall. Getting plenty of rest, exercising, stress reduction, and eating right are cornerstones of vitality, and these can help support anyone who is struggling in a vast number of different ways.
You can help your loved one embrace these positive lifestyle changes by teaching him or her to cook healthy meals, practicing yoga or meditation with him or her, and exercising outdoors together. You’ll both be amazed at the vast difference these small changes to routine can cause in your lives.
Help Is on the Way
You may feel overwhelmed when you discover that someone you love is experiencing mental illness, but you don’t have to feel hopeless. As you can see, there are many things you can do to support your friend or family member while he or she works through this issue and gets the help that he or she needs. A mental illness diagnosis is not the end of the world and neither of you are alone. There are so many resources out there to help you. Together, you can face mental illness and you can learn to live with it as one.
At Clear Sky Recovery, we are here to help you get started on your own path to recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance abuse disorder paired with a mental illness, we can help him or her to take the first steps along a much healthier path. Our ibogaine detox treatment is innovative and effective, and our staff is standing by to answer any questions you may have about our staff, our facility, or the process. Please give us a call today!