How To Support A Family Member With A Mental Illness

It’s well known that managing and seeking help for a mental illness can be an arduous process and it’s important that people have a good support network to help them through the tough times.

However, we often forget the pain, frustration and disappointment that families go through when supporting loved ones in accessing services and helping them on their road to recovery. Supporting a family member with a mental illness, whether that be a child, parent or partner, comes with its own set of challenges.

I’d like to thank my parents for being there and for fighting tenaciously to enable me to access the right services. My parents were and still are very supportive, and have played such a vital role in getting me to where I am today.

Alongside my personal experiences, I also work in the area of mental health and as such, have encountered many instances of families desperately working together to tackle stigma, survive waiting lists and access appropriate services (even if this means travelling miles for support).

Using such personal and professional experiences, I have constructed five top tips to supporting a family member with a mental illness:

1. Stop trying to find an immediate solution

As well as finding ourselves looking for the reason why our loved one is struggling, it is common that we will try and ‘solve the issue’ and provide a solution. There is not one obvious answer for either of these and what helped someone else may not help them. Remember; just as our minds are unique, so is our recovery. Offer support rather than solutions and try to be there for them whenever they need you.

2. Listen and be patient

As frustrating and as painful as it can be, try to be patient. It takes time so just be there to listen and support and try not to worry about saying the wrong thing, ask what you can do to help them. Silence can be very supportive. Often, we can find silences awkward and try to fill them with words but silences can really help your loved one to collect their thoughts and decide on next steps.

3. Encourage them to help themselves

It’s very difficult to help someone if they are not willing to help themselves first. Try to encourage them to take part in hobbies and get out of the house. It may be the last thing that they want to do but things like exercise, meditation and art can all help improve mental well-being. Help them find what’s right for them.

4. Give hope and be positive

Help them to feel good about themselves and offer praise. Recovery is possible and people can and do get better so let them know that.

5. Take care of yourself

Helping others can be exhausting and mentally draining so it’s important that you look after yourself too. As difficult as it may be, try to find some time for yourself to relax, unwind and focus on your own well-being.

I hope you have found those useful. For more top tips on supporting a loved one with a mental health problem, check out the video below: