Supporting Loved Ones Showing Signs of Mental Illness
According to the National Association on Mental Illness, approximately one in five people have a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. That means mental illness is much more common than you might think. Knowing how to support a family member, neighbor or friend who might be struggling is key to helping them get the care they need and eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness.
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses among adults in the United States. Excessive stress, trauma, sudden life changes, loss of a loved one, or a family history of mental illness can trigger the condition. Some of the warning signs include isolation, lack of interest in activities your loved one once enjoyed, lethargy, and feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
People who are struggling with depression or another mental illness may avoid talking about their thoughts and feelings due to the fear of being judged or the perception of weakness. In some communities, mental illness is still not recognized as a medical condition and is often dismissed as a passing phase. The combination of these factors may prevent some from seeking care and building the emotional support network they need to achieve mental wellness.
TIPS ON SUPPORTING LOVED ONES
If your loved one is showing signs of mental illness, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center psychiatrist Sumeet Singh, MD, recommends the following:
- Encourage your loved one to seek help from a mental health professional. If necessary, give them contact information for a local mental health provider.
- Tell them they are loved and will not be judged.
- Check in regularly. Make note of any behaviors that may seem unusual, including changes in sleeping, eating, and work habits.
- Invite your loved one to participate in activities such as sports teams, hobbies, or volunteer activities.
- Let them know you are there to listen when needed.
- Emphasize that seeking care for a mental health condition is just as important as seeking care for a physical ailment such as diabetes or cancer.
Mental illness is a treatable disease that can be managed with therapy, medication or a combination of both. If diagnosed early, people with mental illness can live happy and fulfilling lives.