Tips on Dealing With a Family Member’s Mental Illness

1. Educate yourself

Educating yourself is sometimes easier said than done. There is so much information to take in – especially when a diagnosis is new. Learning is a process so you shouldn’t expect to know everything there is to know about the diagnosis, treatment and available support right away. Take initiative to learn and let it be at your own pace.

2. The individual has a Mental Illness but is more than a diagnosis.

It is sometimes easy to let an individual’s diagnosis become all we see. You may attribute all behavior to the mental illness. Sometimes an individual just has a bad day or is angry or cranky and it has nothing to do with taking their medication or a relapse.

Keep a balance – be aware of behaviors and comments that might be indicative of a break or problems arising but don’t assume everything is related to the individual’s diagnosis.

Like everyone, your family member has good days and bad days, times they excel and times they struggle. Try and remember that individuals are more than the sum of their parts.

3. It is OK and even necessary to speak up for yourself and your family.

Advocate for yourself and/or your family. You know yourself better than anyone else. You know if you or your family member is acting out of character. Listen to the professionals and your support system but also trust yourself and your gut. Speak up because if you don’t -no one else may either.

4. Take time for yourself

Do your best to find time for yourself away from the everyday issues. Do you like shopping, walking through the park, reading stories on the internet, grabbing coffee with a friend, scrapbooking, church, cooking, or exercising? Try to find some time to do the things you enjoy. If you don’t practice self-care it will not only be impossible to care for someone else, it will be difficult to remain present in relationships with others.

5. Forgive yourself

Often we are our harshest critics. Do you get angry or resentful then feel guilty? Do you think you could be coping better or wish you had handled a situation differently. This is all normal. It is OK to feel resentful; it is OK to be angry. Accept your feelings for what they are. No one is perfect; no one reacts well all of the time. Keep in mind that you have positive feelings and reactions too. Try to identify positive moments and feelings you have had when you are down on yourself. If you find yourself in a place where you are unable to identify any moments of happiness or joy, you may need additional support or professional assistance. People are imperfect. Take where you are, look at who you want to be – behaviors you want to have and take steps to get there. It is Ok. Forgive yourself.

6. You only have control over your own behaviors.

It is always difficult to watch someone you care about suffer and struggle. You can guide, assist, support and love your family member but you cannot live a life for them. It is not usually an option to force someone to take medications or go to therapy or treatment. Spending your time trying to make an individual do anything is bound to end up in frustration. Try to behave in a manner consistent with your own values. Offer support to your family member but understand you don’t have control of their behaviors.

7. Remind yourself that mental illness is not shameful.

Individuals and families with mental illness often feel shame and may be embarrassed about the stigmas surrounding mental illness. There also may be times where your family member’s words or actions are uncomfortable. Sometimes the shame has been there so long, it feels a part of you. Use self-talk to remind yourself that mental illness is not shameful. Remind yourself living and supporting a mental illness takes courage and strength.

8. Get support

No one can do it alone. Everyone needs support. Utilize friends and family. Look up resources and get involved in support groups such as the National Association of Mental Illness or others to interact with individuals who may have similar experiences.

9. Get professional assistance

Sometimes it is beneficial to get professional assistance. A neutral individual who has been trained to assist you with your journey can be helpful. They may have skills and help you find insight and contentment you might not otherwise because you are too close to the situation.

Source by Julie Fanning

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