Mental illnesses are difficult for the people suffering with them, but often people forget about the people actually supporting them. Watching your partner, parents or friends go through something so difficult can be horrible, especially if you don’t know how to help them. I thought after my post about maintaining a relationship with a mental illness I would also share how to support someone with a mental illness.
How to support someone with a mental illness
1. Be Patient
They will fight your help, they will push you away and they will be unreasonable. However they will remember the people that stuck around despite all of that. What they need in that time won’t be what they want, but if you encourage them they will eventually come to the point where they want help and your persistence will finally have an outcome.
2. Be Curt
Sometimes when someone has an irrational brain they can’t focus on what you are saying, I am like this anyway, so if you talk clearly the person with the illness is more likely to respond to you or understand you. This is especially important when you are asking them to do something. They aren’t doing it on purpose. When you are suffering everything becomes a chore, so focusing on things becomes difficult.
3. Listen to Them
This might sound obvious, but listening to them is so important. If you are hugging them and they ask you not to, stop. Don’t think you know what they need better than they do, this will drive them away. Listen to their wants and needs instead of forcing things on them. Unless they physically won’t move out of bed this should always be the case. If they don’t know what they want or need then, once again, be patient, make some suggestions and wait for their response. This may take a while.
4. Be Encouraging
It can be so easy to turn around and say “fine have it your way, stay in bed”. I’m sure my partner has had that thought in the past. Don’t do that. Continue encouraging them, remind them things aren’t bad, tell them they’ll do great. My partner often tells me that it’s the bad part of my brain talking, and this for some strange reason helps. I think it brings me back down to earth a little bit. Admittedly this has only worked after medication. So try to bring them back to earth.
5. They won’t always be able to get up
And this is okay. Not every day can be a win. Remind them that they aren’t failures for not getting up, because they aren’t. They are ill. When I was very very ill I often felt like I’d failed if I hadn’t gotten up, but now I look back and realise it would have been so much worse if I had gotten up and gone to work and about my day. It can be so important to take mental health days, it can be the difference between a breakdown and a steady week.
So these are my tips on how to support someone with a mental illness. They may not apply to everyone, but they certainly apply to me. This has been based of my own personal experiences and may not help others, but I home it can give people some insight on why people react the way they do.