One of the first things that I want to cover before diving into the detailed information of mental illnesses is how to help our loved ones.
Have you ever been on the outside looking in? Have you ever been the one who watched a loved one struggle with mental illness and you felt so helpless? Surely you have, or you wouldn’t be here wondering if you’re the only one. It’s okay, because you’re not. Sometimes we don’t even realize it in that moment, we just see someone we love hurting so bad and no matter what it never gets better. Sometimes we were too young to understand why our parents were acting so erratically. Either way, you’re here now, and I am here to try to help out in the best way I can.
What would you do to help a loved one? Would you research every aspect so that you could understand as much as possible? Would set aside your own judgments to listen to the thoughts of your loved one and know about their possible triggers or things that seem to hurt them unintentionally?
I ask these questions because the first thing you should do is educate yourself. By educating yourself, you are establishing the best foundation to be able to help your loved one. By taking the time to learn about your loved one’s mental illness, you can start the conversation easier. You can know certain words to use in a conversation, and even be able to watch out for the important signs of instability. Each mental illness, like all illnesses, has it’s own specific set of symptoms that manifest in heightened seasons of struggle, and an important part of being supportive is understanding how these affect our loved ones (NAMI).
Adults with Mental Illness
Adults with mental illness can be rough. As adults, we learn how to internalize our emotions. We also go through so many different experiences with our mental illnesses that we end up learning to bottle things up. Depending on the adult, they might be as emotionally intelligent as we expect them to be. The biggest piece of advice is to be patient, and learn about the specific mental illness of the family member you are caring for. Do not be afraid to speak up to your loved one.
“I’ve noticed that you haven’t been sleeping too well, are you okay?”
“You seem a little more irritable lately, is there anything I can do to help?”
Alternatively, if your loved one hasn’t been formally diagnosed with a mental illness, you may want to have a conversation with them on getting help. As with any sort of treatment, the person who will receive treatment has to genuinely want to receive help. It isn’t necessarily the same as addiction but people with mental illness share some similar traits of an addict.
Another great tool to have is a safety plan. Whenever your loved one might start to feel a sense of instability, a safety plan can be a great way to stop it before it spirals out of control. Something that I personally noticed in the middle of mental breakdowns was that consistency and privacy were key in controlling the situation. Essentially, it can minimize the worst possible scenarios.
Teens with Mental Illness
It is much more difficult for teens to talk about what is going on inside their head because (most of the time) adults don’t take a moment to listen to what they are trying to say. I have noticed in my years of growing through the years, my voice was never genuinely heard. Parents don’t give their children enough credit over the emotions that they feel or the issues that they face. Yes, it isn’t completely on the parents or even the adults.
It’s important to keep an open mind about the things that teens say. Most teens find themselves in dangerous situations because they put themselves in that situation, but the main reason why teens never talk about these issues is because they feel like they will be punished when they are already punishing themselves every day over whatever trauma they faced. But with dealing with trauma alone during teen years, it causes certain mental illnesses to develop and leads into the adulthood.
Teens must be approached with care from a genuine place in the heart. Make sure they know that you care and want them to feel better. It’s difficult for teens to be able to be think logically through all the emotions and hormones that are rushing their bodies. You have to meet a teen on some sort of common ground in order for them to talk about what it is they are feeling. And sometimes, it takes time. Sometimes you have to tell them the same thing a million times before it clicks and they realize that you are trying to help them. The key, ultimately, is consistency.
Children with Mental Illness
When it comes to trying to help a child with a mental illness, it becomes a little more tricky. Children aren’t necessarily capable of knowing what they are feeling. It’s important to keep children occupied when dealing with the highs and lows of mental illnesses. The best thing we can do as a loved one is showing our children that we love them, and showing them healthy hobbies to do when they feel sad, mad, anxious, etc.
Links to Check Out