How can I get help for a family member with a mental illness?
Encouraging a loved one to seek help for mental health challenges is never an easy or simple process. At Mariposa Center, a mental wellness and recovery facility in Orange County, we have seen firsthand the ripple effects that untreated disorders can have on couples, families, and communities. If someone you care about is showing signs of mental dysfunction, we have a few tips that can help you cope and some strategies for encouraging your loved one to pursue treatment.
Expand Your Own Understanding
If you believe a family member needs treatment for a mental health disorder, one of the most valuable things that you can do is educate yourself. Specifically, you should try to learn more about the benefits of mental health treatment and gain a better understanding of what your loved one’s symptoms might indicate.
First, learning about how mental health treatment can help will make it easier to break down barriers or objections that could prevent your loved one from considering treatment.
Further, while skepticism is always a good idea when you’re reading about mental health on the internet, knowing more about why your loved one acts the way he or she does will allow you to have more informed and impactful conversations about the subject.
Have a Conversation the Right Way
While the subject of mental health treatment has become generally accepted in recent years, the subject of one’s personal mental health will always be a difficult topic of discussion.
If you want to encourage someone you are close to to get help for mental illness, the American Psychiatry Association recommends using “I” statements that express your concern for your loved one’s well-being without sounding accusatory.
For example, instead of saying “You need help because…” or “You never listen,” try a statement like “I’m worried about you because…” or “I would feel better if you…” that doesn’t assign blame.
Express Support & Encouragement
When you are talking to a family member or loved one about getting help for mental illness, it’s also important to express support, love, and encouragement throughout the discussion.
Even if they agree to seek treatment the first time you bring the subject up, recovery and mental health treatment is rarely a straight-line path to wellness. There will be setbacks, frustration, and new challenges – all of which could derail their progress without a strong and encouraging support system.
Take Care of Yourself
Worrying about a loved one’s mental health and well-being can be an exhausting and thankless task with or without a professional’s help. Seeing someone you care about face challenges like depression or substance abuse can also make it easier to neglect one’s own mental and physical health as you get wrapped up in their struggles.
Taking the time to maintain your own sense of wellness can be beneficial for a loved one with mental illness in several ways. First, it will be easier to be patient and empathetic with that loved one if you aren’t constantly on edge or feeling depleted. Second, speaking with a mental health professional yourself can provide an outlet for the frustration you may be feeling as a result of hitting roadblocks with your loved one.
Finally, think of it as leading by example. If you’re willing to seek treatment for your own challenges, it could help to break down any remaining resistance that is keeping your loved one from seeking treatment.
How Mariposa Center Can Help You & Your Family Member with Mental Illness
Since 1977, Mariposa Center has offered mental wellness services and recovery treatment for individuals, couples, and families in Southern California. Our team has decades of experience with all facets of mental health, including counseling for those who are struggling to cope with a family member or loved one’s mental health challenges.
“Serious mental health challenges can have effects that go far beyond the individual who is struggling. That person’s loved ones may find themselves lacking trust or in deteriorating relationships, which are concerns that merit treatment of their own to ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of everyone involved.”– Krista Driver, LMFT; President & CEO, Mariposa Center
As we mentioned at the outset, encouraging a loved one to seek help for mental illness is never an easy or simple process, and it may take some time for your words to have an impact. In any case, don’t neglect your own well-being during the journey – the best possible outcome is good long-term health for everyone, you included.