Here’s what you need to know about caring for someone with mental illness

   

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How to support a loved one with a mental health disorder

Having a friend or family member with a mental health condition can often prove difficult when trying to understand what they are going through and offering your support in ways that you are able to.

It is often the case where people will respond negatively to those battling with mental health issues, a lot of the time it is because people don’t understand it - the condition and what the person is going through in having it.

Here’s the thing to remember:

Mental health disorders are as real as physical conditions.

They are as real as a physical condition such as diabetes and it is often helpful to think about how you would react to a friend or family member with a physical condition such as this and react in the same supportive manner in the case of a mental condition.

Someone with a mental condition such as depression or bipolar, cannot simply ‘snap out of it’ and are dealing with multiple mental battles on a daily basis in trying to fight their feelings, symptoms and emotions associated with their condition.

 

Some common mental health disorders include

 

  • Anxiety & Panic Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizophrenia

 

In honour of July being Mental Health Awareness month, we have put together a list of tips that can help you in supporting and caring for a loved one with a mental illness:

 

Educate yourself

The first thing you should do when it comes to showing support to someone with a mental illness is to educate yourself on the condition. Find out as much as you can about it so that you have a good background of knowledge to offer support and care.

This will also allow for you to understand what your loved one is going through and relate to them on a deeper level than that of an onlooker.

 

Listen

Allow for your loved one to talk openly about their condition and let them know that you are there to listen to them.

A number of people don’t want to talk about their mental illness, but it is important for you to let them know that you will not judge them and only want to offer a shoulder for them to lean on and someone to listen to them.

 

  • If your loved one does begin to talk openly about their mental state or any feelings they may have, then don’t change the subject
  • Resist the temptation to dismiss any of their concerns
  • Keep your loved one’s trust by not sharing any information they share with you with other people. HOWEVER - if suicide is mentioned, then it is time to call a professional psychologist or doctor to get help.

 

 

Ask them what you can do to help

Simply asking if you can drive your loved one to an appointment or telling them that you are always there for them when they need support, can make the world of difference.


Don’t make your loved one feel excluded

People battling with mental health conditions often battle to express their feelings to others and withdraw from social events in fear of their friends seeing them as ‘different’.

 

  • Include your loved one in social gatherings and invite them to dinners and other social events
  • Message your loved one or phone them to find out how they are
  • Make plans to see them, just the two of you
  • Make sure they know that you love them and are there for them through this

 

 

Find out if they are getting the care they need

Just like someone with a physical condition, those with mental conditions need to seek help, advice and often treatment from a healthcare professional such as a psychologist.

Find out if your loved one is getting the care and professional help they need and try to let them know that this help is only going to aid in them dealing with the symptoms of their condition more effectively and will make their life a lot easier.


Support healthy behaviours

It is important to know that if your friend is on medication, or even if they are not, alcohol and other drugs will interfere with the effects of this medication and also trigger certain emotions such as depression or act as a means of ‘self-medication’ in those with depression and other conditions turning to alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to escape their symptoms.

Encourage your friend to partake in exercise, eat regular and healthy meals and be aware of any drug abuse they may have.

 

Take care of yourself

It can be stressful and often overwhelming to take care of a loved one with a mental condition:

 

  • Take the time you need to do things for yourself and relax
  • Go to a psychologist or counsellor if need be to talk about your role as a supportive loved one - a professional can help give you advice in how to deal with the situation

 

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Not sure what to say?

You are not alone in not knowing what to say to a loved one with a mental illness…

Here are some guidelines from Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance for talking to someone with a mental health disorder:

 

WHAT HELPS

WHAT HURTS

I know you have a real illness and that’s what causes these thoughts and feelings.

It’s all in your head.

I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

We all go through times like this.

You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

You have so much to live for -  why do you want to die?

Tell me what I can do now to help you.

What do you want me to do?

I can’t do anything about your situation.

You might not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.

Just snap out of it.

Look on the bright side.

You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.

You’ll be fine. Stop worrying.

Talk to me. I’m listening.

Here’s my advice…

I am here for you. We will get through this together.

What’s wrong with you?

Shouldn’t you be better by now?

 

Of course, being a support to someone with a mental health condition is not easy. But if you are looking for health insurance that is simple, easy and transparent - then look no further than Oneplan - the best part? You get paid before you see your healthcare professional.

 

Yours in health,

Oneplan



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