How to Help a Loved One Who Is Struggling With a Mental Illness


How to Help a Loved One Who Is Struggling With a Mental Illness

Michelle Peterson

Are you worried that a friend or loved one needs help with their mental illness? Maybe you’ve noticed them being depressed and/or isolated, drinking too much, or perhaps they’re not eating at all. Getting help for someone who is struggling with a mental illness isn’t easy. But getting treatment could just save their life. So if you are concerned about your loved try following these words of advice to get them the help they need:

Recognizing and Acknowledging a Problem    

If you are close to your loved one, chances are you spot the signs before they do. It often starts with seeing your loved one engage in self-destructive behaviors. You may then notice them pulling away from you and other loved ones, engaging in reckless behaviors or neglecting responsibilities in their life. While you may recognize their problem, getting them to acknowledge it can be much more difficult. Admitting that there is a problem is often the hardest step for you and your loved one. It’s also the first, and perhaps the most important step in recovery. Try relaying your fears to your loved one in a positive way. If you think it will help, enlist others to talk about their concerns, so that your loved one is less likely to dismiss your own worries.

Getting Your Loved One to Get Help

Admitting that you have a problem is only half the battle. But even when someone is willing to admit they have a problem, convincing them to seek treatment can be a challenge. Often, people that are struggling will attempt to overcome their issues themselves, but this seldom solves the problem. Recovery requires a multifaceted approach to treatment that is best formulated by experienced professionals. This can seem impossible when the person you are trying to help refuses to seek treatment. Before talking to your loved one about treatment, try speaking with a doctor or counselor to better understand how to talk to your loved one. Talk to them and stay firm as you talk to them about seeking the treatment they need.

Offering Support During Treatment

If you persuade your loved one to seek treatment, know that the struggle is still not over. Treatment can be tough on the mind, body and soul, and your loved one will need support to get through this intensely difficult time. Be prepared to take some time away from your loved one when they first enter treatment. If you are allowed to socialize with your loved one while they are in recovery, make sure the support you offer actually helps them overcome their struggles.

Taking Care of Yourself

It’s natural to want to help someone you love when they are in need. Fighting a mental illness can be a difficult time in a person’s life, but it can be even more difficult for the people around them. Your loved one can hurt you in so many ways when they are abusing food, drugs or alcohol. If you can get them to seek treatment, you have a chance of helping them. But if your loved one refuses to get help, causes you serious pain or is a danger, it may be best to keep some distance for a while. Know when you need to put yourself first.

Watching someone you care about struggle is hard. Helping them recognize there is a problem, encouraging them to get help and supporting their recovery is the most you can do to help them. To make a lasting change, they have to be willing to help themselves and that’s often the hardest thing for you and for them.

Spacer - green.jpg
Michelle Peterson Guest author


Michelle Peterson believes the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride. Her mission is aligned with that of RecoveryPride, which is to celebrate sobriety and those who achieve it.