Seeking treatment after a mental health disorder diagnosis can be overwhelming. As difficult as it can be for the individual, it can also be very challenging for their loved ones. Watching someone that you care about struggle is never easy. When it comes to mental health issues, you might feel useless when trying to provide support through this difficult time.
As strong as these feelings might be, you are not powerless. There are ways you can help those you love as they seek treatment. These may not seem like significant contributions due to their simplicity. However, it is often the simple actions that mean the most. Knowing how you can help your loved one through their treatment process can also help you feel better about your role in their mental health journey.
Learn About Their Condition
One of the most important things you can do to help your loved one is to become knowledgeable. They may feel overwhelmed trying to learn about their condition while also grieving their new diagnosis. Taking the time to learn about their new disorder can take some of their burdens off of them. It also prepares you to understand better what they are experiencing and how to handle situations as they arise.
There are ample resources available for learning about your loved one’s mental health diagnosis. The internet offers a vast source of readily accessible information about mental health. For those who prefer the tactile sensation of a physical book, you can try your local public library or bookstore. If your loved one feels comfortable, you can attend therapy or doctor appointments with them. This will enable you to be there for emotional support while learning about their condition and treatment directly from a medical expert.
Listen Without Fixing
When presented with a problem, you may feel inclined to solve or fix it. While this can be a good quality in many situations, it is not always the best reaction in complex social situations. Mental health conditions often don’t have a simple fix, like setting a broken bone or taking insulin for diabetes. This is important to remember when your loved one comes to you to share their concerns about their new mental health diagnosis.
While their concerns can trigger you to seek a solution, that typically isn’t what they need from you. Instead, they need someone to listen and be empathetic. Focusing on how to fix the problem can leave your loved one feeling unheard and isolated. Instead of trying to offer up solutions to their concerns, concentrate on listening to their problems. Knowing they are heard might be the most therapeutic thing you can do for them.
Normalize Their Condition
A mental health disorder can be shame-inducing for even the most outgoing and confident people. Many of these feelings of shame are the result of more significant issues going on below the surface. These issues can include grief, fear of change, and concern about harmful stigmas associated with their condition. They might even be worried about what friends, family, and coworkers might think about them if they learn about their diagnosis.
Unfortunately, you can’t change shame-inducing stigmas about mental health on your own. Change on that scale takes a concerted effort that sometimes takes generations. However, you can help change these stigmas on a smaller scale between you and those around you. Acknowledging and treating their disorder as a normal variance of life rather than something taboo or tragic can help normalize having a mental health condition. It may not seem like much, but it can make a significant difference.
Support Without Enabling
The symptoms and responsibilities of managing a mental health disorder can be an adjustment. Supporting your loved one with a new mental health diagnosis can positively impact their health. However, it’s essential to be aware of the difference between supporting and enabling them. The two can appear very similar but have drastically different outcomes. While helping them is sometimes necessary, you can’t do everything for them. They must learn to adjust and cope with their condition to maintain their functionality and quality of life.
Separating these behaviors can be challenging because each person, disease, and situation will differ. Supporting someone helps them both in the short and long term. Conversely, enabling might appear to help them in the present moment, but it ultimately does more harm than good. You must differentiate between the two and set boundaries. Setting boundaries between yourself and a loved one can feel like neglect, but you must remind yourself that you are doing it to help them.
Finding Your Support
Supporting a loved one on their mental health journey is no easy task. You may sometimes question what the right thing to say or do is. It can be helpful to get advice from friends or an unbiased expert like a therapist or medical provider. You should also remember to take care of yourself by finding your own support system to lean on. The better you care for yourself, the better you will be able to care for those you love.
It can be challenging to support your loved one as they adjust to a new mental health diagnosis. While you might feel helpless, there are ways you can be of benefit in their mental health journey. Not only does this help them, but it can make you feel valued and empowered. At Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center, we understand the importance of the well-being of your loved ones. We want our clients to be able to manage their conditions and thrive, and loved ones can play a critical role in their success. If you have a loved one with a mental health condition and want to learn more about how you can support them, call us at (714) 942-4143.