Many of us think that mental illness isn’t something that could happen in our families. But we’re wrong. Half of all American adults (46.4 percent) will endure mental illness at some point during adulthood, and five percent of people over 18 struggle with it in any given year.
The question isn’t whether poor mental health is possible. It should be how to get help for a family member with mental illness.
Are you trying to support a family member going through a difficult time or who has a severe mental illness? Here’s what you need to know.
Remember: Adults Have the Right to Decide Whether They Want Treatment
Watching someone struggle with mental illness is hard, but their illness doesn’t rob them of their right to dignity and autonomy. Every adult has the right to decide whether they want treatment – and what kind of treatment makes the most sense for them.
What is important is not whether you are right or wrong, but whether they are satisfied and happy.
In some cases, your family member may not be able to live a fulfilling life without talk therapy or medication. Instead of recommending treatment options, you can help by listening to them and building a trusted relationship. You can also help make treatment more accessible by assisting them to manage appointments and giving them a lift. If necessary, you might consider helping them financially by paying co-pays or even buying them groceries.
The NAMI recommends the book I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help if you are struggling to communicate with a friend or family member struggling with the signs of a mental breakdown.
Reach Out to a Crisis Center if Necessary
So much of learning how to get help for a family member with mental illness is supporting them in their own decisions. However, if things deteriorate to a point where they reach a crisis, it is appropriate to take further action.
If you worry about the risk of someone you love harming themselves or someone else, get in touch with crisis resources. If the crisis is happening before your eyes, call 911 or go to an emergency room.
Just Keep Talking
Your loved one’s mental health may cause them to retreat or push the people they care about away. Resist the urge to give in to their requests and keep talking to them.
Continue to express both your concern for their wellbeing and support for them as an individual. Reassure them that you care about them and only want them to enjoy life. And remember to offer to help in any way they need (even if it doesn’t involve treatment).
Be the lifeline they need without being overbearing or making their health about you.
Do You Know How to Get Help for a Family Member with Mental Illness?
Family members struggling with mental illness don’t need your pity or your suggestions. They need support in a way that makes sense for them.
Do you know how to get help for a family member with mental illness? Start by learning how to talk about mental health in a way that is supportive and respectful and go from there. Don’t forget to reach out to professionals to learn how to support your loved one on their journey.
Did you find this article helpful? Visit the rest of our health archive for more information on dealing with mental health.