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4 Steps to Help Someone With a Mental Illness

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If you work in a place that helps people who have mental illnesses, thank you. From the bottom of my chemically confused heart, I appreciate you to the point of bursting. You have the medical training and patience to deal with people who others may deem “strange.” This makes you a rare breed. In some cases, the person who has a mental illness may genuinely have a problem and not be ready to admit it. Be patient, please. I sometimes have no idea I am depressed until my husband says, “Hey … you haven’t showered in four days and haven’t left the bedroom in three …”

• What is Bipolar disorder?

When you are as used to your thoughts and feelings as you are, you sometimes do not realize they are not necessarily “normal” or appropriate. So breathe. Wait. Explain. Communicate. May the Gods bless you throughout this endeavor.

Objective: Learn what mental illness is and how to help those with it.

1. Get a diagnosis.

Sometimes admitting there is a problem is the hardest part. Show your support by encouraging those you care about to get help. Be gentle. Not everyone is reading to hear about their problems and tackle them all right now. Help them find a provider who will suit their needs and give them a proper diagnosis. This may take time. Offer your support as they go through the process. Here are some helpful resources to start this journey.

2. Research the disorder.

Use the following sites to help better understand the nature of the problem:

By researching the disorder, you can understand the general condition and you can have meaningful communication with the person living with it. Just remember, not everyone’s experience is the same. There will be variations. Communication is key.

3. Make a plan.

Create a plan to help your friends or loved ones. The psychologists/psychiatrists will have part of a plan already, but you can choose things you both want to work on. Some topics to consider:

  • Level of comfort in public spaces.
  • Communication statements of “I feel …”
  • Approved activities.
  • What to do in the event of a panic attack or depressive episode.
  • Who to call in an emergency.

4. Enact and revise.

Once you make a plan, do it. Check with your friend or family member to make sure the plan is working, or make changes so it can work better. All changes should be discussed with a mental health care provider to ensure it will not cause problems with treatment or medications.

Getty image by Softulka

Originally published: January 28, 2020
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