Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

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Anyone can have mental health issues. And if they do, friends and family can make a big difference in their recovery.

Mental health conditions are common — 1 in 5 adults are affected. Mental health illnesses are health issues that change a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or actions. They can be short-term or long lasting. Some common ones are depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

What You Can Do

Research shows that support from family and friends is vital in helping someone with a mental illness. It’s important that you:

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of their mental illness.
  • Learn about how their treatments and medicines work.
  • Notice when they are having a hard time and encourage them to talk to their doctor.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Show that you care.
  • Remind them that there are effective treatments that can help.
  • Offer to help with everyday tasks.
  • Involve them in your plans.
  • Show empathy and compassion.
  • Be an advocate to help the whole family.
  • Educate yourself and others about mental health issues.

Studies show that when family and friends are taught about a family member’s illness, rates of relapse were reduced by half the first year.

Following the Plan

Therapy or counseling with a licensed mental health professional can help people find ways to better cope with issues impacting their mental health. And just like with a physical illness, someone with a mental health issue may also need to take medicine to get better.

Therapy and medicine together, when recommended by your doctor, has been shown in some cases to be an effective way to manage the symptoms of some mental health disorders.

When medicine is part of a treatment plan, medicine compliance is very important. Medicine compliance is an agreement to take the prescribed dose, at the right time for the recommended length of time. It can be a shared decision between the person, their mental health provider and often a family member involved in their care.

Keeping to a medication plan can be hard to do. It is not unusual for some people to not take their medicine as directed. And some don’t take it at all. But failing to stick to the plan can hurt their quality of life or cause complications or a relapse. It can even lead to a hospital stay.

If you notice your family member or friend is having a hard time taking their medicines, encourage them to talk to their doctor or pharmacist. They may have tips for keeping up with medication plans. Setting reminders on phones or using pillboxes to help organize medications may help.

Find ways to offer help. In addition to recommended treatment, support from family and friends is vital in helping someone experiencing a mental health illness.

Sources: Learn About Mental Health, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; For Friends and Family Members, leaving site icon MentalHealth.gov, 2020; Technical Interventions for Medication Adherence in Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review, leaving site icon JMIR Publications, 2019; Clinical Challenges: Adherence to Psychiatric Drugs, leaving site icon MedpageToday.com, 2019; Schizophrenia: What Is It?, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2019

Originally published 11/2/2020; Revised 2022

Anonymous