As with any other chronic health situation, whole families are impacted by the presence of mental health issues. The question is, how can relatives help themselves and their mentally ill loved ones?
*FIRST: MAKE YOUR OWN NEEDS A PRIORITY. Some of us, like most of the population, deal with the dynamics of separation from versus dependence on family members. It’s a delicate dance. Since our needs are greater than those who are not afflicted with a mental illness, we can be particularly fearful of leaving the nest and finding our own niche while resenting the compulsion to remain dependent. We need to see our families functioning well independent of us. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways:
1. Develop interests that have nothing to do with our needs. Go dancing, join a club, become involved with politics, or become active in church.
2. Take care of yourselves physically. Get enough rest, adopt a healthy diet, and keep in contact with your doctor.
3. Set goals not related to us. We need to see you happy, healthy, and functioning well without us.
*SECOND: HELP US FIND OUR STRENGTHS: Gently move us in the direction of healthy separation. In some cases, total independence may not be feasible. But we still need the foundation of being able to do the things we enjoy.
*THIRD: Encourage us to get involved in the community. Following are a few suggestions:
a. participation in classes at community colleges.
b. community volunteer work.
c. Joining music groups
d. going to support groups
e. getting involved in artistic expressions such as painting, poetry, or pottery.
*FOURTH: Become knowledgeable about legal issues surrounding mental illness. Contact organizations like MAMI, which has an extensive support base for families and patient
*FIFTH: So you can temporarily step into our reality, steep yourselves in knowledge about our illnesses. Read everything you can about psychosis, phobias, anxieties, depression, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder. Simply being understood is priceless to us. Our experience can be VERY LONELY. Knowing you understand is immensely helpful.
*SIXTH: BECOME KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT BOTH ALTERNATIVE AND TRADITIONAL MODALITIES. Orthomolecular psychiatry has shown promise in managing psychosis and depression as have traditional meds.
Google orthomolecular psychiatry for information.
And remember, whatever you do to help yourselves, helps us!
Dear readers, if you have any comments about ways families can help, please include them in the comment section.