- Friends And Family
- Friends and Family of Those Living with a Mental Health Condition: A Conversation with Kate McLaughlin, Author, Speaker and Advocate
Friends and Family of Those Living with a Mental Health Condition: A Conversation with Kate McLaughlin, Author, Speaker and Advocate
Check out these FAQs from friends and family members on how they can best support loved ones living with a mental health condition and themselves. Answers include tips on expressing concerns, helping a friend or family member, coping, maintaining healthy relaitonships, setting boundaries and expectations and remaining mentally healthy.
What is a mental health condition?
A mental health condition causes changes in thought, mood and/or behavior.
Mental health conditions often make it hard to cope with ordinary demands and routines.
Mental health conditions can be triggered by a variety of causes, including a stressful situation or series of events, another illness, genetics, biochemical imbalances or a combination of those factors.
I care about someone with a mental health condition. What can I do to help?
Accept the diagnosis without placing blame.
Educate yourself. Learn the facts about symptoms and treatment to alleviate your fear.
Remember, despite symptoms, this is the same person you care for.
Know that there is help and hope for your loved one.
Continue to offer love and support.
How can I best support family members and friends living with mental health conditions?
Be willing to talk honestly, without judgment, shame or blame.
Encourage them to openly communicate with their treatment team.
Invite and include them in activities that have always been fun--understand though that sometimes these activities may be overwhelming.
Be an example of safe and healthy living.
Learn new and healthy ways to spend time together.
What can I do if I am concerned about a family member or friend?
Write down the behaviors or actions that worry you. Be as specific as possible.
At a time when you both are calm and comfortable, share your list and the fact that these are symptoms of a condition that can be treated.
If your family member or friend already has a mental health diagnosis, encourage a return visit to the doctor.
If no diagnosis has been made, stress the fact that these symptoms require medical assessment and treatment.
What should I do if a family member or friend is experiencing a psychiatric crisis?
If danger is imminent, call 911 and tell the operator that this is a psychiatric emergency. Ask for a trained response team.
If he or she is not a threat to himself, herself or others, call the responsible person, contact a health care provider and/or seek immediate medical attention.
What should I watch for in myself to remain mentally healthy?
Many mental health conditions are genetic and run in families. If you have a family history of mental health conditions, avoid drugs and alcohol. They can trigger the illness.
If you’re worried about your own mental health, keep a daily log or journal of your concerns. Talk to friends, family, a therapist or health care provider about your concerns.
Learn the symptoms and signs of the onset of a mental health condition and monitor yourself for these. Confide in someone you trust and ask them to tell you if you exhibit these symptoms or behaviors.
To maintain good mental health, eat a well-balanced diet, get at least 30 minutes of physical exercise every day, sleep eight or more hours each night and avoid drugs and alcohol.
How can I have healthy relationships with family members and friends living with a mental health condition?
Drive them to or be present at appointments
Honor their need for, and right to, privacy. Always treat them with dignity and respect regardless of circumstance.
Seek your own support from family and friends. Self-help and support groups also provide an opportunity to talk with others in similar situations.
Pursuing your own interests will help you remain patient and compassionate. You can only help others when you are physically and emotionally healthy.
There is hope for recovery, and with treatment, many people with mental health conditions lead happy, productive and fulfilled lives.
How can I prevent these relationships from being all about the mental health condition?
in normal, fun activities together. Watch movies, play games, go for walks and engage in related activities.
“no health talk” times.
on necessary tasks, such as cooking, grocery shopping and gardening.
and schedules that encourage living a well and healthy life.
What should I expect from these relationships?
Relationships with anyone, regardless of their medical status, should be respectful, kind, supportive and mutually beneficial.
Moods are affected by mental health conditions, so if your relationship is difficult when someone is unstable, remember that its symptoms. Try not to judge or react harshly.
Work on reestablishing appropriate behaviors when their health improves.
What skills or strategies will help me deal with family members or friends with a mental health condition?
What are appropriate boundaries for these relationships and how do I set them?
Developed by Kate McLaughlin, author of Mommy I’m Still in Here: One family’s Journey with Bipolar Disorder and professional mental health speaker.