How to Be There For Someone Struggling with a Mental Illness
Since the beginning of time, humans have fought with understanding the behaviours of others. Arguably, this lack of proper human perception could be the root cause of conflict.
The lines become extremely blurred when you throw mental health-related issues into the mix. Often times when we deal with friends or family members who struggle with these issues, it can be quite nerve-racking.
We don’t understand what makes them tick and we may perceive their actions out of context. They may appear to be selfish, indifferent, negligent or socially awkward.
In reality, they are dealing with a tornado of emotions that are too overwhelming for them to worry about social perception. It can be a struggle bridging the gap between empathy and frustration.
We may grapple with finding the right words to say to our spouse dealing with depression. We may feel that our friend who struggles with anxiety is unreliable. We may even be fearful of our family member who has to manage their bi-polar episodes.
The best way to conquer misunderstanding is to simply strive to understand. There are countless trustworthy resources that easily describe each disorder in detail along with their symptoms.
By taking the time to read up on what they are going through, you will better understand your loved ones actions. The key to this is to approach your research with an open mind. There is no understanding without a willingness to learn and that takes great humility.
Creating a judgment free zone with your loved ones will help build trust. The last thing a person struggling with OCD or depression wants is someone to judge them. They already have to deal with the insecurities that come along with their illness- they don’t have room to take on your perspective. If they felt comfortable enough opening up to you about their struggles, it is now your duty to create that safe space for them.
Do not allow what others say or how the media portrays mental illness to sway your actions. Let your loved one know that you may not understand fully what they are experiencing, but that you are willing to be that rock they need.
If they are receiving professional help, commend them for their bravery. If they decide to take medication, do not hinder them with what you read online. Support their decision to get the help they need. Be there for them by giving them the necessary space to recharge and facilitate social outings that cater to their interests.
What’s unique about mental illness is that everybody has a different journey to wellness. Because we are dealing with inconsistencies of the mind, there will be inconsistencies in behaviour. They may have their good days and their bad days. The best way to approach this is to be patient. Trust us, they do not enjoy their symptoms.
If you notice a pattern that results in negative behaviour, try to catch those triggers before the storm. Then, follow through to redirect those emotions into something that makes them comfortable.
We all want to feel that our feelings are indeed true. Although we may feel that their feelings are delusional or extreme, unfortunately, that is their reality. Validating those feelings creates confidence and self-awareness. It gives them a sense of dignity in a world that strives so hard to strip them of that.
If you have a friend, loved one or family member who deals with mental health issues, celebrate the small things. Acknowledge their accomplishments even if it’s getting out of bed in the morning. This motivation will push them to strive to attain wellness each day. Express how proud you are of their progress socially, emotionally and professionally. The journey to understanding is winding with many obstacles.
However, the benefits of creating a strong support system for those in need are endless. Become an advocate not only for mental health awareness but for human understanding. This will greatly impact your relationships for the better.
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