Support For Families with a Mental Illness
A mental illness is a persistent disorder that affects mood, thinking and behavior. It can increase stress and decrease an individual’s ability to function at home, work, school and in the community. This blog offers effective ways to support family members who have a loved one with mental illness.
- Seek professional help and learn all you can about your loved one’s mental illness diagnosis including current research about positive outcomes. (NAMI)
- Receiving a diagnosis: The fact that there is a name and treatment plan for what a family has been experiencing can provide hope. A diagnosis of a mental illness can also be viewed as a loss. Take time to grieve the news and discover what your family can do to take appropriate action to support the recovery process.
- Seek to understand the trigger for the illness. Research suggests multiple contributing factors to mental illness such as genetics, environment, life experiences, temperament, physical injury and biochemical processes in the brain.
- Create a Safety Plan: Learn specific verbal/nonverbal cues and early warning signs to your loved one’s decompensation as well as calming/coping skills to avoid power struggles. Avoid making assumptions or assigning meaning to your loved one’s behavior. Listen long enough to identify the root problem making it easier to find a mutually satisfactory solution.
- Remember the needs, thoughts and emotions of other family members, particularly your other children. You may want to request a family session with your counselor. Here siblings can learn how to interact with your loved one.
- Celebrate small progress, rather than focusing on how far you have to go.
- Reduce stigma and shame by encouraging your loved one to keep telling their story in trusted relationships.
- Ask your therapist or doctor about resources within your community for additional support. Craft short statements for strangers in public places to prevent confusion, calls to authorities and preserve personal dignity.
- Hold family meetings to discuss the benefits of sharing limited information with extended family, school staff, clergy, work environment etc. (who, when, where and how much to share). Remember, we only need to share enough information to decrease your loved one’s frustration and promote success.
- Know your role, limitations and capacity and use good self-care. Tell yourself “I am enough” when you know you have done enough because you cannot fix everything.
Individuals with a mental health diagnosis as well as their family members are at various stages of learning and change. You and your loved one can learn how to lead productive and happy lives when there is support for a treatment plan.
Beth Holloway, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Rosario Counseling & Associates and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Grief Processing and Depression Recovery. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries.
©2015 Rosario Counseling & Associates, PLLC