Support Strategies for Family Members

If you have a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, you are probably wondering what you can do to help. Although new forms of therapy, medications and community services have enabled many individuals to lead full, independent lives, support from family, friends and peers remains an essential element in the recovery process.

There are many ways you can help someone with a mental illness navigate the treatment system and work towards recovery. As in any relationship, emotional and practical support is always needed. Occasionally, family and friends participate in someone’s recovery by offering transportation, financial and housing assistance. Whatever form it takes, your support, compassion and respect matter.

Knowing when and how to give support can be difficult to figure out, however. Though you may want to protect your family member or friend, remember that learning to manage one’s own affairs, pursuing goals and becoming independent are aspects of an individuals recovery. Here are some tips for supporting someone close to you:

  • Educate yourself about the diagnosis, symptoms and possible side effects from each treatment. Mental Health America of the Heartland, public libraries and the Internet are good resources to learn about mental illnesses and treatment options.
  • Recognize that your family member or friend may be scared and confused after receiving a diagnosis. Though some people are relieved to receive a diagnosis and actively seek treatment, it may feel devastating to others and bring on stressful feelings.
  • Listen carefully to your family member or friend and express your understanding back to him or her. Recognize the feelings he or she is experiencing and don’t discount them, even if you believe them to be symptoms of the illness.
  • Encourage your family member or friend to become an active member with his or her treatment team to gain knowledge about what treatments and services will help in his or her recovery.
  • Recognize that it may take time for your family member or friend to find the proper medications and dosages that work.
  • Understand that recovery from mental illness isn’t simply a matter of “just staying on one’s medications.” Self-esteem, social support and a feeling of contributing to society are also essential elements in the recovery process.
  • Encourage your family member or friend to speak immediately to his or her healthcare provider about any problems related to medications.

source: Mental Health America

< Back to Coping Tips