Watching a loved one struggle with mental illness can be devastating and is certainly challenging. It’s human nature to want to solve our loved one’s problems and take their pain away. Unfortunately, we can’t control every situation and cure someone’s mental illness. It can also be tricky to communicate with someone who struggles with mental illness because we feel like we don’t understand what they’re going through. We’d love to share a few tips on how to speak to someone who is struggling with mental illness, but first, we want to make sure you actually understand what mental illness is.
The American Psychiatric Association says mental illness is:
Now that we’ve established what mental illness is, let’s talk about how to communicate with someone struggling with mental illness.
Empathy is the ability to relate to others. Although you may not experience mental illness, there are probably times you’ve felt uncomfortable, distressed, or not like yourself in your life. These are common feelings someone with mental illness experiences as well. When speaking to someone with a mental illness try to put yourself in their shoes.
Mental illness can be a lifelong battle and sometimes unpredictable. If someone in your life is struggling one of the best things you can do is check in on them. A simple text or phone call can go a long way. People struggling often feel like they’re alone. It’s important to let them know they’re not. By asking questions like “how are you feeling?” you help normalize mental illness and open up the line of communication.
Mental illnesses have a stigma on them that they make people “crazy” or “insane” etc. Mental illnesses are just like every other disease, e.g. diabetes, heart disease, so they should be treated like one. Do not put judgment on your loved one, because that can contribute to negative effects on their health. It’s also helpful to remove “crazy” from your vernacular. If someone is telling you something shocking, you can say “oh wow” instead of “that’s crazy”.
Advocate for your loved ones! Be their biggest supporter. If you’re involved in a conversation that speaks poorly about mental illness, be the one to change the narrative. If you hear someone say “she’s just being crazy”, try to correct them and get them to use a different word. Educating others around you helps make the world a safe space. Your friend or loved one will appreciate you trying to make the world they live in much easier.
At Warner Park Recovery we work daily to rid mental illness of it’s stigma. We also put an emphasis on family members participating in treatment so they can get the appropriate coping skills. We know the importance of a strong support system during recovery. Contact us if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness.
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