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How to Help a Family Member with Mental Illness

Seeing your family members or loved ones struggle can be painful and difficult. However, when they’re struggling with something that you don’t understand or haven’t experienced personally, like mental illness, it can feel impossible to help them. Here are a few suggestions that will teach you how to help a family member who is struggling with mental illness.

See the Signs

First off, you need to learn to recognize the signs of mental health disorders and illnesses. Remember, you’re educating yourself to help them find healing, not to force a diagnosis upon them. If you haven’t grown up in a generation that is aware about mental illness, it is important that you educate yourself so you know how to help your family members and those around you. Symptoms of mental illness are increasing now more than ever, and studies have shown that around 50% of teens experience mental health concerns and illnesses at one point or another. If your family member is becoming abnormally irritable, anxious, angry, frustrated, distant, or is experiencing other changes in emotional behavior, they might be struggling with their mental health. Mental health challenges can also manifest themselves in alterations in regular behavior or routines. For example, if your family member is normally active and productive but suddenly stops exercising, sleeps longer than usual, and stays alone inside for long hours, this could be a sign that they are experiencing a mental health disorder. Remember, mental health symptoms and diagnosis are not one-size-fits-all. Your family member might even suppress any signs of their mental struggle. However, if you learn to notice changes in their behavior, you can help them to find healing and health again.


Express Your Love

Next, it is important that you genuinely and honestly express your love for your family members regularly. When you are experiencing mental health disorders, it can be easy to feel that the people around you don’t truly care about you, since they might not know what is going on inside your head. For this reason, you need to regularly express your love for your family members who have mental health challenges. Show them that you love them through your words and your actions. Serve them without being asked. Invite them to spend time with you. Ask them about their mental health to better understand what they’re experiencing. When you’re having a conversation with your family member about their mental health, be specific in your questions. Don’t just ask them, “how are you doing?” Instead, say something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve seemed a lot more anxious lately. What is making you feel that way? How can I help you?” This will help them to express their feelings and create more understanding between you. Sharing how you’re handling your own challenges can show them that you are a safe space, and that you truly love them.

Find Help

Finally, if your family member’s mental health has not been improving and has started to affect their life negatively and even dangerously, it is important to aid them in finding help. It can be difficult to accept that you need outside help, especially since there are a lot of stigmas that have surrounded mental health counseling and medication in the past. However, you can help your family member to understand that they don’t always have to feel the way that they do. Talking to mental health professionals can help them to find a solution that will allow them to regain control of their life and start to find peace and happiness again. If your family member isn’t prepared to accept outside help yet, don’t force it on them. They need to be prepared and willing to be helped, even if that process takes longer than you hope.

Remember, everyone experiences mental health disorders differently. The solution that works for one person might not work for your family member. It might take years for your family member to start healing and looking for additional help. However, with patience, love, support, and effort, you can help your family to find better mental health.

If you and your family member have decided to search for additional help and counseling, Peak Psychological Services will guide you to find hope and healing. Click here to make an appointment today.