Being diagnosed with an “illness” is never a good thing. There are always complications that come after, including going to maybe see a specialist, getting medications, changing your lifestyle, etc. There are not many differences after being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Being able to see a psychiatrist can allow some clarity, but then the questions about medications and talk therapy might arise. Also telling your loved ones about this can also be challenging.
In the recent weeks have had clients asking about how to support their loved ones who have lately been diagnosed with mental health concerns and they are unsure of how to manage their emotions, while also being support of their loved ones. Supporting someone whom you care about and seeing their mood change, their demeanor change, and their attitude towards life (sometimes) change is not easy. Here are some tips and things that you can work on to help support them (and yourself) best.
1. Understanding what your loved one has been diagnosed with. If your loved one allows you to speak to their therapist or psychiatrist and understand why the diagnosis was given. Do your own research on the diagnosis and get a better understanding of what is going on within them. Ask questions!
2. Talk to your loved one about how they are feeling. Once again, ask questions! Listen to them without trying to change their thoughts, behaviors or emotions (leave that for the therapist). Build an even stronger relationship with them than you might have had before. Be a supportive person for them to feel comfortable talking to without being judged or feel as if they cannot be themselves.
3. Going back to my first two points — ASK QUESTIONS! Do not try to guess what they are thinking or feeling. Being able to communicate with them to key. Be self-aware of the situation and see what their triggers are. Be honest with them and yourself.
4. Get help for yourself. Watching a loved one go through a mental health struggle, can also cause anxiety within you. Being able to take care of someone else can be really difficult, and you must engage in self-care and take care of herself. You also need someone to talk to and therapists are here to listen to you.
5. Find support groups for you and/or your loved one. Being able to relate to people that are going through the same thing as you can be very helpful. Recognizing that you are not alone through this process and neither are your loved ones. Being able to connect with others and talk about your strengths, weaknesses, what has worked, and what has not worked has been shown to be helpful.
If a loved one speaks about suicide, call 911 or get them to the closet ER. Do not try to change their mind or help them. They need more intensive support than you can probably provide.
If you are looking for some resources, here are some that might be helpful for you:
- I Am Not Sick. I Don’t Need Help! by Dr. Xavier Amador
- Defying Mental Illness: Finding Recovery with Community Resources and Family Support by Paul Komarek
- Why is Dad So Mad? by Seth Kastle
- The Burden of Sympathy: How Families Cope With Mental Illness by David A. Karp
- Podcasts: Crybabies, The Dark Place, The Struggle Bus
There are, of course, many, many resources that are out there, and more specific ones. Reach out to one of our highly skilled therapists for more resources or if you or a loved one need support. Remember that you do not have to travel this journey alone.