VOS: Supporting a Loved One with a Mental Disorder

Supporting a Loved One with a Mental Disorder

Psychology explained

March 2023

Supporting a Loved One with a Mental Disorder

If your loved one suffers from a mental illness, you might want to support them, but you don't quite know how to do it. Even if we try to keep an open mind, we still may not quite know what to do when it comes to us and our loved ones. There is a lot of prejudice around mental disorders, and although mental health has been talked about more and more in recent years, the other side of the spectrum remains somewhat taboo. Yet supporting a loved one with a mental illness is not so different from supporting someone with any other illness. So let's take a look at what we can do.

Tell them you’re worried

If you struggle with how to even start a conversation about what’s going on with someone close to you, why not start with how you feel? By telling that you’re worried you’re showing your honest concern and care. Sometimes even this is enough to show that you are there for them if they need it.

Set aside time with no distractions

Whenever you want to show another person that you care, give them your full attention. Set aside time with no distractions to show how important they are to you. You don’t even have to talk about mental issues. You can show your support by simply being present.

Listen and validate their feelings

People suffering from mental problems often feel ashamed or like a burden. When your close one is sharing their feelings, it probably cost him a lot of strength to start talking. Give them space to talk, and tell them that it’s ok that they feel how they feel. Appreciate their courage to share it with you.

Carry on as usual

Behaving differently can make others feel isolated. On the one hand, do not ignore that the disease exists, but try to act as normal as possible and include your close one in the normal life.

Support them with finding help

Support your close one with finding the courage and information about professional help. Mental disorders need to be treated the same way other illnesses do, and most of them can be influenced by therapy or medication. Be supportive and involved in their treatment journey.

Offer practical help

Helping with the practical things such as shoppings or laundry when your close one doesn’t have the strength to do it on their own can help maybe better than anything else. Some mental disorders can really take a lot of energy that the people need for doing the steps needed to get better.

Take care of yourself

Don’t forget about yourself. Supporting someone else can be difficult and even you deserve your own support. Dedicate time to things you enjoy doing, treat yourself after a difficult day, and rest when you need it.

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