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How to Support a Loved One with a Mental Illness

It can be a difficult and exhausting journey to support a loved one with a mental illness. Since mental health issues may be just as severe and disabling as physical ones, providing the right help is critical in aiding your loved one on their journey to recovery. Here are some tips for supporting a loved one struggling with a mental illness, including how involved you should be and how to identify and abstain from enabling behaviors.


Understanding Mental Illness

There's a wide range of mental health issues. They include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol use disorders (alcohol addiction), anxiety, substance use disorder (drug addiction), and depression.


As each mental health issue is distinct, try understanding your loved one's particular mental disease. If they are grappling with a drug use disorder, this means being aware of the typical drug side effects, researching various remedies, and comprehending the symptoms they could experience. This information can help you feel more secure in your ability to function as a support person and empower you to actively participate in your loved one's continuing care, always with their permission.


It's critical to recognize that every person's experience with mental illness is unique. The success of different therapies or drugs might vary significantly from person to person; the road to recovery may include experimenting with them. As you negotiate the complexity of the procedure, be patient with yourself and your loved one along this journey.


How Involved Should You Be?

Finding a balance between active support and safeguarding their freedom is necessary when helping someone struggling with their mental health. Following are a few points to remember:


Open Communication: Encourage honest and genuine discussions about their feelings, concerns, and treatment options. Assure them that you are there to listen sympathetically and to provide support without passing judgment.

Respect Their Choices: Though you can provide suggestions and advice, it is critical to remember that your loved one must ultimately make choices about their treatment and rehabilitation. Respect their choices, even if you disagree with them.

Offer Practical Help: Assist with everyday duties, such as food preparation, grocery shopping, or transportation to treatment appointments. Sometimes, tangible support can lighten their burden.

Encourage Self-Care: Encourage them to embrace self-care practices, including exercise, a healthy diet, and relaxation methods. These practices can complement professional treatment effectively.


How to Know if You Are Engaging in Enabling Behaviors

A 2021 study found that having the support of one's family, friends, and social network can be helpful for those coping with the practical and emotional difficulties associated with mental health problems and drug use disorders. This study underscores once more how vital interpersonal ties are in supporting a loved one in recovery.


Another study from 2019 found that maintaining and cultivating strong social support can benefit those receiving treatment for drug use disorders. The study also implies that integrating families into healing can significantly improve results.


Positive connections help provide social support, which is often necessary for a loved one with a mental illness. Social support encompasses any form of help, aid, or solace supplied to individuals to help them cope with health conditions or social stressors.


"An 'enabler' is someone who consistently engages in behaviors that facilitate, rationalize, or indirectly support another person's potentially harmful actions." Enabling means providing direct or indirect support for another person's harmful inclinations. Here are signs you might be engaging in enabling behaviors:


Avoiding Confrontation: They can be less ready to ask for help or start positive changes if you avoid having frequent dialogues about their mental health or refuse to confront harmful behaviors.

Taking Over Responsibilities: While offering help is helpful, taking on all duties could encourage dependence. Please inspire them to take charge of their duties and lifestyle.

Ignoring Boundaries: In every relationship, setting and upholding the proper boundaries is crucial. You might explain the following limits to a loved one who is struggling with addiction, abuse, or other issues:


➢ When you're yelling, I won't participate in any talk with you; I'll only listen calmly when you speak.

➢ I don't feel comfortable being intimate if you've been drinking."

➢ "Please don't come over when intoxicated; I prefer not to spend time with you while using drugs."

➢ If you or a loved one violates a boundary, you've communicated without suffering repercussions, and they could keep doing so.

Providing Financial Support Without Accountability: If you have the money, occasionally assisting a loved one financially is usually harmless. However, if they routinely engage in reckless, impulsive spending or commit cash to potentially destructive endeavors, supplying them with money regularly might support these behaviors. Financial help for a loved one can be especially harmful if they struggle with alcohol addiction or misuse.


Encourage Professional Help

Encourage your loved one to get help from qualified therapists, psychiatrists, or support groups. Mental health specialists are trained to provide tailored advice and therapy based on their patients' needs.


Self-Care for Caregivers

Supporting someone with a mental illness can take a toll on your emotional well-being. Make sure you prioritize your own mental wellness as well. When the need arises, please seek helping hands from your circle of support, participate in self-care activities, and consider therapy or counseling to negotiate and manage the issues successfully.


The Bottom line

Being a constant source of support for a loved one suffering from a mental health problem may be a source of strength for them. Nevertheless, it's vital to avoid inadvertently enabling their harmful behaviors. Enabling does not imply supporting what they do; instead, it frequently stems from genuine concern for their well-being or fear of possible future danger.


Recognizing this tendency is critical because enabling might harm your relationship with them and hinder their rehabilitation. Confronting addiction issues such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or alcoholism alone is difficult, and silence can discourage people from getting help. Consider seeing a therapist if you believe you are enabling. Therapy can assist in identifying enabling habits and providing suggestions on better ways to support your loved one in healing.


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