I have spoke on this particular subject once before (I Will End The Mental Illness Stigma) but it covered a broad range of mental illness and given resources for help. This time around I want to focus on a personal level. This time I want to give some helpful tips on how to help a person dealing with mental illness. The awesome organization NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) offers a free 12 session educational program designed for families, friends, or significant others to learn how to live with someone who suffers from mental illness. It helps those individuals improve the coping and problem-solving techniques when dealing directly with their affected loved one. To check out your local NAMI location just visit their website at www.nami.org.
Many families deal with mental illness especially within the African-American community that they either choose not to address it or don't know the signs. What they dont realize is that your mental health ultimately affects your physical health. Studies have shown poor emotional health can weaken your immune system (familydoctor.org), which is why African-Americans lead when it comes to high blood pressure. So if you love someone who deals with mental illness help them, help you, help them...I'll explain. I have a dear friend who was recently diagnosed with bipolar, so whenever I know she is doing good, I worry less. When things are in a disarray I'm usually the anxious one and its usually her that calms me down. If she's ok I'm ok, see simple. Now every case may not be the same as ours, by all means we are not the best example of a best friend relationship, but even with the illness we make it work because we have both recognized and are treating our illness. Maybe you are not sure of the signs well here are a few:
1. Withdrawl-from family and no interest doing any activities
2. Nervousness- Constant suspiciousness of even those who are close to you, always feeling nervous.
3. Sleep and appetite changes- sleeping way more than usual or not getting any sleep at all. Either not eating enough or overeating.
4. Mood changes: When their emotions are to the extreme (extreme anger, extreme sadness etc)
5. Thoughts of suicide- If you or someone you know have had these thoughts or have attempted suicide there is help. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
I try to talk to my mom sometimes, and no lie its a challenge. I think its because she knows that mental illness is present with me she just doesn't know how to respond because dealing with someone with a mental illness is very very unpredictable. That is why I strongly encourage my readers to seek out every resource possible. Until then here are a few tips that I find helpful:
1. Let them talk- Sometimes all they want to know is that they have what is called a "safety spot". Where they come to someone and they know there will be no judgement, or will not get scolded. Do what you can to gain that person's trust.
2. Some things are going to sound repetitive: Be patient because a lot of things that people with anxiety deal with is worrying about the same thing until a solution is found, and then they begin to worry if the solution will work. Be reassuring with them and sometimes you may have to repeat yourself but it makes communication much easier. Just remain calm ad cool and your energy will pass along to those who are ill.
3. Don't remind them of their illness- You want to do whatever you can to avoid it, simply because they may not even be thinking about it. That is why its so important to spend time with the person with the illness, gaining trust. Do things that will distract them from focusing on their illness. Find a spot that gives them peace and serenity and go there often. Mine is the lake in Hermann Park in Houston,TX. Water soothes me and they also have the Japanese Garden which is so beautiful and peaceful, places like that.
4. Don't you change- You can be yourself around the person. You're close to them for a reason so dont treat them as if they have the illness, remember DO NOT remind them that they are ill. Remain positive and optimistic around them and this also helps eases the illness.
5. Congratulate them when they are doing well- Let them know that you see any changes that they have made. Remind them to always stay on their treatment or if they haven't started treatment encourage them to get help. Be available if they choose to go get treatment, no one wants to feel as if they are alone in getting help. Be open to any and all suggestions that the doctors or counselors may give and follow through.
Remember you can play a major part in helping a person with mental illness.
Peace And Blessings
"Buzzworthy Cravings, Creatively Satisfied!"