How to support a loved one with a mental illness?
Published 9 Oct 2018 • By Louise Bollecker
How to support a loved one with a mental illness?
This year, World Mental Health Day 2018 takes place on the 10th of October and will focus particularly on mental health during childhood and adolescence. For this occasion, we should all make efforts to try to understand our loved ones who are suffering from mental illnesses, as well as discussing ways to help them.
Preventable disorders from an early age
Did you know that half of mental disorders appear before the age of 14? Yet, in the majority of cases, they go unnoticed. It is therefore essential for families to listen to children and adolescents. It's about giving them the right tools or, in the words of the World Health Organization (WHO), to help them build the capacity for mental resilience.
Preserving the mental health of adolescents and young adults is paramount when we know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. Adolescents face many challenges; from physical changes to life changes (such as the end of high school and a possible move from home). The harmful use of alcohol and illicit substances, as well as eating disorders, also affects young people.
Finally, the WHO has identified two other issues for 2018 that have a profound impact on the mental health of young people: addictive online technologies and the involvement of young people in humanitarian emergencies (conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics ...).
Talking about mental disorders is essential
The most important aspect of fighting against mental disorders, is to acknowledge the problem and try to talk about it. Many people that are suffering mentally are also in denial or trying to hide how badly that they are feeling. The first warning signs and symptoms of mental disorders should be noticed and above all, verbalised. Patients should not feel alone in their mental battles. In most cases, that do not require medical treatment, talking about the problem is already a step in the right direction. Speaking positively and praise any progress or good moments they have within their illness. If possible, accompany your loved to their medical appointments so that they don’t feel alone in their illness.
The important thing is to break the isolation that people with mental disorders feel. If one of your loved ones decides to confide in you, you must try to listen to it without judgement. The awareness that a loved one is concerned is a big step, even if it is sometimes difficult. It is necessary to put aside guilt, sadness, disappointment, anger…
Helping a patient: Am I up to it? How to react?
You too can experience difficult emotions, especially if your loved one accuses you, rejects you or ignores you. While trying to understand and help, do not forget about your own mental health. If necessary, get help so that you do not become overwhelmed by psychological distress. Talk about them to a separate friend or family member who will support you. Accept the idea that you may not be able to help your loved one as you would have wanted and that we all make mistakes.
Finally, you are a close friend of the patient, not his doctor. It is up to a health professional to take the necessary steps to improve, or even heal, your loved one.
Mental Health Contacts
Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.
Men's Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm)
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5pm)
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0845 120 3778 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon to Fri,10am to 5pm & 7 to 10pm. Weekends 2 to 5pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30 to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 4pm)
Children's charity dedicated to ending child abuse and child cruelty.
Phone: 0800 1111 for Childline for children (24-hour helpline)
0808 800 5000 for adults concerned about a child (24-hour helpline)
Advice on dealing with domestic violence.
Phone: 0808 2000 247 (24-hour helpline)
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