Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

Supporting Someone with Mental Illness

Lee esto en EspañolAnyone can have mental health problems. And if they do, friends and family can make a big difference in their recovery. 

Mental health conditions are common, affecting 1 in 5 adults. Mental health illnesses are health problems that change a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or actions. They can be long lasting. Some common ones are depression, anxiety, bipolar disease 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 medications 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 mental health problems can be treated.
  • Offer to help with everyday tasks.
  • Involve them in your plans.
  • Show empathy and compassion.
  • Be an advocate to help the whole family.
  • Educate other people about mental health problems.

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

Just like with a physical illness, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine to get better. Medication compliance is an important part of treating mental health disorders.

Medication 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 for people with mental health problems. It is not unusual for them to not take their medicine as directed or at all. Yet 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 medications, 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. Support from family and friends is vital in helping someone with a mental illness.

Sources: Learn About Mental Health, leaving site icon  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018; For Friends and Family Members, leaving site icon, 2017; 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, 2019; Schizophrenia: What Is It?, leaving site icon  Harvard Medical School. 2019