Seven Ways to Support a Loved One with a Mental Illness

Worth Living Ambassador Hannah Morgan

Hannah-Grace is a 20 year old Applied Psychology student at Acadia University. Having grown up seeing first-hand how rocky the road of dealing with mental illness can be, as well as the unfortunate stigma that comes along with it, she is eager to help make a change. Hannah-Grace aims to inspire others to choose happiness, embrace the differences of others, and laugh often.

Hi everyone! This is my first blog post and I am more than excited to get started. Today, I will be sharing with you some helpful tips you can incorporate into your everyday life to be a better support for someone who is living with a mental illness. As a disclaimer, these are not listed in the order of their importance, but rather just a natural flow of ideas. Let’s get started!

1.Educate Yourself
A very easy and helpful way to show your loved one that you support them is to learn about the specific illness that they are living with. By typing in a few keywords, you can be given an abundance of relevant information regarding any mental illness, such as symptoms, treatments, and what being diagnosed with the illness means for your loved one.

To be clear, this is something that should be practiced more not only by those supporting someone with a mental illness, but by everyone (myself included). It is so easy to get caught up in our own little worlds and forget to ask a simple yet so important question- “how are you?”. Not only can the answer to this question sometimes literally be the difference between life and death, but even just venting can relieve a lot of stress. We’re always told not to keep things bottled up, but in my opinion we aren’t told enough to stop talking and listen.

My challenge to you today is to reach out and ask someone how they are doing.

3.Get Involved
With the increasing popularity of movements such as Bell Let’s Talk and Worth Living, it is now more apparent than ever that there is strength in numbers. By getting involved and starting the conversation, you can show your loved one that their wellbeing matters to you. It is so easy to be afraid of the scrutiny of others, but if we don’t talk about it, we’re only adding to the problem. Help end the stigma. Share. Contribute. Listen. Be Involved.

4.Take Care of Yourself.
This one is something that I’ve recently learned is very important. I found myself exhausted. I was drained emotionally, physically, and mentally. Juggling my role as a Resident Assistant in which I am a support for the residents of my building on campus, to dealing with the demands of my third year classes, all the while trying to deal with family and personal struggles, I was burnt out. I reflected on a training session that Acadia’s Residence Life had put on for us and remembered the analogy presented that I still utilize today. Think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes on over the speaker, and reminds you that in the event of an emergency to put your oxygen mask on before attending to the needs of anyone else. This analogy holds true outside of an aircraft as well. You can’t help others if you do not help yourself first. If you try to be a support for someone while you yourself are not being taken care of, you are virtually no help to the other person. Practice self-care. Do something that makes you happy. Get enough sleep. Binge watch that show. Grab a coffee with friends. Get yourself in a good place and it will benefit more than just you.

5.Let Them Maintain Control.
When a person is feeling like they are constantly relying on someone else, it is easy to become dependent and lose that sense of autonomy that is so important. While you may want to show your loved one you care by handling every aspect of their life, remember that they need to feel a sense of purpose as well.

6.Hold Them Accountable.
This may come across as harsh, but hear me out. Going off of the previous point, we must remember to let our loved ones maintain control of their own lives. What we cannot do, however, is allow for them to engage in unhealthy behaviour. Set limits. Don’t let them get away with doing something that is not acceptable for fear of “setting them off” or losing their trust. By not setting these appropriate limits or holding them accountable for their actions, you are truly only hurting them in the long run. In order for them to maintain that vitally important sense of autonomy, they must be held accountable. Treat them with dignity and respect but do not be a supporter of unhealthy behaviour.

7.Seek Out Resources.
One of the hardest things to do at times can be to ask for help. If you want to ensure that your loved one receives the best care possible, it is important to know what resources are available in your area. For instance, knowing the phone number for a support hotline can be helpful for both you and your loved one. Similarly, knowing the contact information for your loved one’s counsellor/therapist/psychologist/psychiatrist can be beneficial. In extreme cases, it is important to be prepared for the worst. Potentially knowing what medications (if any) your loved one has been prescribed can be helpful, as well as knowing simple things such as the address of your location.

These are not the only ways to be supportive of a loved one living with a mental illness, but they are some tips I try to incorporate into my daily life that I thought would be helpful for all of you.

I hope everyone had a great holiday and I wish you all health and happiness moving forward in the new year.

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *