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How To Cope With Your Loved One's Mental Illness

Aug 10, 2008
Having a family member diagnosed with a mental illness can leave you feeling almost as anxious and scared as they are. How will you handle them? Will you be able to help them when they need it? Will they be okay? These are all normal and valid questions, and the answer to all of them, usually is - yes.
It is possible to deal with the issues surrounding mental illness. The key is knowledge. Read all that you can find about what to expect from your loved one's mental illness: The behaviors that you may encounter as a result of the illness, the care that they will need during times of crisis, how to talk them through a difficult time, what kinds of medications they will need. These are all common issues that will help you to deal with your loved one's mental illness.

One of the first things you should do is to make sure that you have all of the necessary phone numbers written down and easily accessible to everyone in the house. Whether it is a sticky note on the refrigerator, or business cards posted to a bulletin board, you need doctor's phone numbers, your nearest medical facility, and local ambulance and police phone numbers. These are not only important numbers to have during times of crisis for your loved one, but they are important to have for any type of family emergency as well.

Know that your presence and love will go a long way toward making your loved one feel better about themselves and their problems. Be ready to listen. Sometimes that's all they will need. Remember that you do not have to have all the answers. You just need to be a shoulder to cry on, or a comforting ear to listen.

Be alert for warning signs that things are more serious than normal. Listen for key phrases like "I'd be better off dead, or it would be better for everybody if I weren't here". Never ignore such talk or think it will go away on its own. If your loved one is talking like that, or openly saying they are thinking about suicide seek emergency professional help immediately.

Be aware that dealing with any type of illness in family members can be very draining on the care - givers and other members of the family. Do not overlook your own needs for rest, relaxation, and general self care. Get the needed sleep you require to be alert and ready to handle your own life, and that of your loved one as well. When necessary do not be ashamed to ask for help. There are many agencies out there designed to give care-givers a day off when they need it. Make use of them. Most people do not realize how exhausting dealing with a family member's illness until they have to deal with it themselves.
Help your loved one deal with the issues of their mental illness and organize their time and more difficult daily tasks. This will give them a sense of accomplishment as well as allow them to function in society. It will also ease your own burdens of caring for them if you can set your mind at ease that they are able to handle as many of their basic needs as possible.

Keep stress to a minimum. That is true both for their sake as well as yours. The stress of dealing with any disease can wreak havoc on a family. Don't let your loved one's mental illness destroy your entire family. Remember to keep things in perspective. At times it can seem so overwhelming that even the little things can make us blow up. Minimizing the stress and keeping a positive attitude will help both you and your loved one cope, and have a happy family life.
About the Author
Ronen David is the chairman of "Malam" (an Israeli organization supporting and representing those dealing with mental disabilities). He is the author of the "How to Cope With Psychosis & Schizophrenia Self Help Handbook".
Visit his web site and learn Dealing With Psychosis
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