Families and friends of someone who has a mental illness may not realise how influential their behaviour is. When people who care about a mental illness sufferer take the time to respond to them in a caring and positive way, it can make a huge difference. Mental illnesses often differ from physical illnesses in that they can be extremely lonely and isolating for sufferers. Individuals who experience mental illness may withdraw from social activities, stop responding to phone calls or texts, and seek to avoid even the briefest social interactions because of their feelings of stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.
When someone with a mental illness begins to avoid contact with other people in this way, it can be critically important for their family and friends to respond with positive support without judging or criticising them. It may be the case that they require professional psychological therapy or a private psychiatrist to assist in their recovery, but it is also true that we all play a part in the wellbeing of our loved ones.
Here are few practical ways that you can show support for a loved one with mental illness:
When a person that suffers from mental illness is in a negative place, they may become disengaged, despondent and uncommunicative. Don’t let them retreat into themselves and write them off because they haven’t answered your calls or because they have turned down social invitations. Continue to offer your love and friendship. Even if they are not up to talking, it is important that they have the opportunity to do so, and to interact with the world. You may not receive the positive, enthusiastic response that you were hoping for, but even a friendly text or knock on the door can go a long way to providing a sense of normalcy, and that they are not alone.
Ask What They Need
People with depression often feel ashamed to ask for the help they need. So don’t wait for them to come to you. Ask them how you can help them. Maybe they could do with a ride into town, or a helping hand with the shopping or cooking. Or maybe they would appreciate nothing more than a pot of soup dropped off. Any help that you can offer not only provides practical assistance, but also a connection to daily life that they may otherwise struggle to experience.
Don’t Make Demands
This is unfortunately something that happens a lot to people with a mental illness. Friends and family members may demand that they attend social functions like holiday dinners or weddings – and then take their refusal or no-show as a personal insult. Don’t tell a person who is depressed or suffering from anxiety that they owe you their time or that they are being selfish if they are not up to going to an event. Instead, be understanding that they may not feel well enough to be in a social setting, and where possible offer them a positive, constructive response. Give them every opportunity to take part, but never insist upon it. Give them a call, and don’t be upset if they don’t call back. Offer to listen, but never judge.
Finally, be proactive in their treatment. If someone you know is suffering from mental illness, they need help and recovery. Speak to us today and book a consultation.