Mental Illness and What You Can Do

Mental illness is real and can afflict anyone at anytime. People suffering from these treatable diseases often do not recognize them for what they are.

Some signs that may indicate a mental illness and a need to get help:

  • Marked personality change

  • Difficulty coping with problems and daily activities

  • Strange or grand ideas

  • Excessive worries

  • Prolonged depression and apathy

  • Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns

  • Thinking or talking about suicide

  • Extreme mood highs or lows

  • Abuse of alcohol or other drugs

  • Excessive anger, hostility or violent behavior

A person displaying one or more of these warning signs should be evaluated by a mental health professional as soon as possible.

How a Family Can Help

Many times families and friends feel helpless and uncertain about how to help a loved one with a mental illness. Perhaps the biggest help you can provide is to show consistent support and encourage professional treatment. This is important. Some disorders can cause your loved one to be unable to see himself or herself as ill. Or, the individual may realize there is a problem, but is unwilling to seek help on his or her own. Understanding the illness can prevent much suffering. Know that the family is not to blame.

You should:

  • Encourage and support professional help; you may also find it helpful to consult with a mental health professional yourself on how you can best cope with the situation

  • Learn about the illness, its causes, symptoms and treatment; know the behaviors that are caused by this particular illness

  • Find out what the realistic expectations are for your loved one; this helps avoid disappointment and a sense of failure

  • Help the individual manage the illness by:

  • Being emotionally supportive and patient

  • Keeping the relationship as unchanged as possible

  • Expressing compassion for what the person is experiencing without claiming to understand it

  • Talking honestly about feelings and problems

  • Remaining available, although your loved one's behavior may be withdrawn and rejecting

  • Encouraging times for being with family and friends while respecting the need for time alone

  • Encouraging your loved one to do as much as he or she can, and give assistance when needed

  • You should refrain from:

    • Blaming the person for being ill

    • Criticizing, nagging or finding fault with the person while he or she is ill, as this may lower the person's self-esteem

    • Encouraging dependency by making decisions for the individual or performing tasks the person can accomplish

    • Taking behavior of the individual personally

Remember:

  • It's essential to take care of your own emotional and physical needs

  • Your genuine, caring concern is important

  • Mental illness can happen to anyone; no one is to blame

If you or someone you know appears to be suffering from a mental illness, call for help.