If you’ve landed on this blog post, you may or may not be close to a loved one who has a mental illness. Whether it’s a friend, partner, or family member, it’s essential to know the dos and don’ts when dealing with someone with a mental illness. Even if the person only has an anxiety disorder, there are still right and wrong things you can do.
Just to refresh your mind… a mental illness is a health condition involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior. It can affect each person differently. Some may show x amount of symptoms and some may show only y amount.
It can be difficult to find the right words to say when someone is showing symptoms and I get that. However, simply showing up for them emotionally can make a huge difference. In case you need guidance on how to support a loved one with a mental illness, try following these do’s and don’ts.
Supporting Someone With A Mental Illness: The Do’s
This may be the simplest thing there is to do. Honestly, listening to someone release all of their feelings is a great way to make them feel supported. Let them know that you’re willing and available to listen to their problems, even if you can’t relate to or understand the situation fully.
Validate their feelings and make them feel heard because they do still have a voice.
Do Remind Them Of Their Worth
A mental illness can diminish a person’s sense of self-worth and confidence, making them feel inadequate or worthless. When a loved one is going through an anxious or depressive phase, remind them of how much they mean to you and that you love them. Help them regain their sense of control and confidence.
When I used to go through my depressive phases, it felt like almost every time I kept feeling lower and lower. I did end up feeling worthless. But I had one particular person who was right there by my side every step of the way and I am forever grateful for him. Even when I was self-sabotaged, he always found a way to help me change the way I viewed myself.
Do Practice Self-Care
Please don’t forget to go easy on yourself and be intentional about self-care. Pour into your own cup just as much as you pour into a loved one’s to avoid burnout. Stick to your boundaries and if you need to, take a step back to rest and recharge. And when you feel like you’re able to check back in with your loved one, then do so.
Just make sure you take care of yourself too because burnout can happen before you know it. You’re unable to take care of someone else if you’re neglecting yourself.
Supporting Someone With A Mental Illness: The Don’ts
Don’t Take Things Personally
Truth be told, supporting someone with a mental illness can be both draining and stressful. Some days you might find that person lashing out at you or even pushing you away. And during those times, you will get angry. But you need to remind yourself that it isn’t your fault and there’s nothing you can do when it gets to that point. Also, remember that a mental illness can cause uncontrollable outbursts and irrational behavior.
Don’t Minimize Their Feelings
Despite your good intentions, some things you say that sound positive to you aren’t positive to them. Here are some phrases you need to refrain from saying:
- “Cheer up”
- ”Oh, you’ll be fine”
- ”Others have it worse than you“
- ”Look at the bright side”
- ”This too shall pass”
- ”It’s all in your head”
All of those phrases can hurt a person because it’s almost like you’re saying what they are feeling isn’t valid.
Keep in mind that what may seem like a small issue to you can be a huge burden to a person suffering from a mental illness.
Don’t Ignore The Truth
Truth is, someone you love has a mental illness. And whether it embarrasses you(it shouldn’t) or not, they need you. I’ve seen in so many cases where someone in the family had a mental illness but everyone tried to cover it up and ignore it as if it wasn’t there. Fact is, it’s there and it can worsen if left untreated.
Accepting the mental illness will make it easier for you and your loved one.
Be a support system
Remember that your role is to be a support system for your loved one suffering from a mental illness. You’re not supposed to try and provide a cure for them. And if your loved one needs a high level of care, encourage them to get professional help.