Supporting a loved one with a mental health disorder can feel rewarding, overwhelming, and confusing at the same time. However, as the American Psychological Association (APA) notes, you can be an invaluable resource to your loved one. Moreover, you need to know you are not alone on this journey of care. Listed below are some tips on how to support your loved ones and take care of yourself.
We all have times when our mental health will be affected. For example, grief over losing a loved one can negatively impact your mental health. Whether your mental health disorder is short- or long-term, a support system shows us that we are not alone. It can feel scary when your loved one is not behaving like themselves or is struggling to get through the day. You have probably asked yourself countless times, in one way or another, how do I help them?
According to the APA, the first step in supporting your loved one is recognizing symptoms and signs. Some common signs of a mental health disorder may include:
If your loved one is in a crisis situation, reaching out to the right resources is the next step. Crisis support can include working with your loved one and their mental health providers to build a crisis plan. As the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes, a crisis plan can include important phone numbers like your local crisis intervention teams and emergency hospitals. Moreover, a crisis plan is a group effort in which you work with your loved one to build a plan to best support them. A crisis plan tells everyone what role they will play in an emergency to best support the person in crisis.
Supporting your loved one goes beyond building plans in times of crisis. You can support your loved one in big and small ways to make daily life more manageable. Pathways Wellness Center provides 24-hour assistance to ensure you and your loved one have a place to turn to.
You can support the long-term mental health of your loved one in numerous ways. Figuring out which path makes the most sense for you and your loved one does not have to be a road marred with uncertainty. With a little guidance, you can balance caring, building a partnership, and still caring for yourself.
Below are some tips on reaching out to your loved one and building your supporting toolkit.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), there are simple things you can do and say to support your loved ones:
Looking for reliable and up-to-date resources will give you more insight into what your loved one may experience. Pathways Wellness Center will work with your family to educate you about mental health disorders.
Researching specific disorders can help you build stronger connections with your loved one and clue you into the signs when they may need more support. For example, if you support a loved one with bipolar disorder, you can learn to recognize when a manic or depressive episode happens. Your patience and love can support healthier outcomes for your loved one with bipolar disorder through communication and understanding.
Listening to other people's stories and experiences on social media will also give you invaluable insight into what living with a mental health disorder is like. When you can look through the eyes of another person, it opens you up to more compassion and understanding.
Start a conversation
Practice active listening, in which you give the other person your complete attention. In addition, you can ask open-ended questions to get more details and take moments to summarize the conversation to clarify and confirm each other's understanding.
While sharing experiences can be helpful, avoid comparing how you dealt with what you might identify as a similar situation. Comparisons can make your loved one feel like their feelings are not considered valid. Everyone experiences and feels things differently, so it is important to be aware and respectful of those differences. When someone reaches out to you, do not focus on the specific situation but talk about how you coped with your emotions.
Here are some additional tips on supporting your loved one through conversation:
Ask what you can do to support them.
Offer a few suggestions if they are unsure how you can help.
Be honest with yourself and your loved one about what you can do.
Criticism is not support.
Offer to participate in daily activities with your loved one.
Beyond these tips, another important way to support your loved one is to care for yourself.
As caregivers, it can be easy to get lost in the needs of your loved one. When we put our needs last or ignore them altogether, it harms us and our loved ones. Also, according to NAMI, taking care of ourselves is important because the "healthier we are, the more energy we have for problem-solving and offering encouragement."
When we get burnt out, it can leave us feeling exhausted, resentful, and guilty. It is important to set boundaries to support the long-term health of you and your loved one. Do not be afraid to communicate with your loved one about how you feel and what you need because this is a team effort.
Listed below are some tips on how you can engage in self-care:
Learning how to take care of a loved one with a mental health disorder can feel daunting. However, with some guidance and reliable resources, you can support your loved ones' short and long-term recovery. As a source of support, you can help your loved one manage their symptoms for a healthier self. Although being a caregiver is important, remember that your physical and mental health is important as well. Here at Pathways Wellness Center, we believe in providing resources to support the mental health of you and your loved one. We are dedicated to providing support that cares for the whole community. To learn more about how to find appropriate support, call us today at (888) 771-0966.