How can you help those suffering from a psychiatric disorder?
Statistically speaking, you will likely have a close friend or loved one suffering from a psychiatric disorder at some point in your life. You may not know how to help them. Our readers weighed in with some helpful tips to support those who are suffering.
View Them As People, Not Their Illness
First and foremost, show them you do not in any way consider them as strange or rather you do not stigmatize them. One of the major issues in the mental health sector is stigmatization. Particularly, people with psychiatric issues that are severe and often involve psychosis are never treated as people.
You must show the individual you do not think of them this way, by completely rooting out any negative thoughts towards the individual that have been planted by societal attitudes on mental illness. View them as if they do not have the illness in the first place, but look beyond their illness to see the vulnerable human behind the stigmatized disorder.
More so, show them that you are invested in their mental health, not only by calling them and making sure they are okay, but by actually being physically there for appointments. Offering to drive is an amazing way to show you care. Buying them a burger after an appointment is also great. It’s the small things that matter when it comes to mental health. A subtle way to show someone you love them. Mental disorders can be very isolating. Try and fix this isolation.
I think that one of the most important things that loved ones of people experiencing psychiatric illness can do is to educate themselves on the patient’s diagnosis. In schizophrenia treatment, one of the focuses is often on psychoeducation for the family because learning what the patient’s odd behaviors are and why the patient is doing them helps the loved ones be less reactive, which in turn helps the patient improve.
I encourage friends and family to seek counseling of their own, as the stress of being a caretaker is immense and a knowledgeable professional can help a lay loved one understand patient behaviors that might otherwise frustrate them and cause them to lash out and damage the relationship.
Rose Parker is a Psychosis Advocate. She has a BSc in Psychology with Honors and is a graduate student in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
Be Nonjudgmental and Offer Structure
First off, it is imperative that you let them know they’re not alone and that they have your unconditional love and support. This means making yourself available to listen without judgment.
And don’t fear asking questions because the more you know about what they are going through, the better you will be able to understand what you need to do to help them or if they need professional care. It is also important to keep reminding them that mental health problems can be treated and managed so that they don’t feel frustrated or depressed with themselves.
You can also help them to set specific goals and put together a daily routine because those with serious mental illnesses tend to thrive best when they are given the tools and guidance that they need to take responsibility for their own lives. So, instead of cooking for them or taking them to every appointment or errand, you can teach them how to cook or learn the routes, for example.
Be Supportive And Aware
If someone that you know has depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, the best thing that you can do is just to provide support. Learn as much as you can about the disorder. Become aware of the symptoms and how you can help. Listen to your loved one. Encourage them to seek mental health help.
Find Local Resources For Them
It depends on the severity of the disorder and the relationship you have with the person. If they are a close friend or family member, you could try to talk to them about their condition and see if they want to talk about it. You could also offer support and encouragement, and help them find resources like therapists or psychiatrists.
If the person is not a close friend or family member, you could try reaching out to a mental health organization in your area and see if they have any advice on how to help someone with a psychiatric disorder.
You could also donate money or time to these organizations to help them reach more people who need help.
Be Present For Them
The best way to help someone with a psychiatric disorder is to just be there for them. Be a person they can talk to that will listen. Do not try to relate or pretend like you know what they are going through because you do not. No amount of talking or relating will solve a condition like that. Instead, be someone who is willing to listen and empathetic. People with these conditions, in most cases, just want to be [heard,] so just focus on being a good listener.
If the person is in danger of harming themselves or others, then it is important to get them to help right away. This may mean taking them to a hospital or calling the police. If the person is not in danger of harming themselves or others, then the best thing you can do is offer support and understanding.
Psychiatric disorders can be extremely difficult to deal with, and it’s often helpful to have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through. There are also many support groups available for people with psychiatric disorders. Try contacting your local mental health center or searching online for resources.
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