Family and friends are an integral part of recovery. This page includes resources for loved ones so they can better understand mental illness and how to support someone as they heal.
Friends and family members are very important sources of “natural” support for most people. These are the people who know their loved one best, know what works for her/him, and know how to best support her/his continued healing and recovery. We strongly encourage clients to involve others who are committed to their health. This can be done in a variety of different ways, such as giving us permission to communicate with family, giving family permission to visit during the designated visitation periods, and/or including them in specific appointments with the client’s psychiatrist, primary therapist, or their treatment team. For more information, click HERE for the family handbook.
During 2018, we will continue developing our family education programming. This includes monthly workshops for current client families, covering topics such as communicating effectively with others, ways to support your loved one, basics of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and learning healthy eating strategies over the holidays. Our goal is to help families and friends understand the treatment your loved one is receiving, and how to best support them once they have been discharged.
Helpful Tips for Families
You may be familiar with mental illnesses and how they affect you, your family, and your loved one. If you are not, here are some helpful tips:
- Mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are biological brain disorders that interfere with brain chemistry. Chronic mental illnesses are often compared to medical issues, such as Diabetes.
- Many mental illnesses have genetic factors that increase one's likelihood of developing the disease. In addition, life stresses may trigger the onset of symptoms.
- Some people don't believe that you can get better if you have a mental illness. However, that's not true. With appropriate medical care, most people can live healthy, productive lives. Note: just because someone attends treatment, doesn't mean that they will never need mental health care in the future. There may be periods of time that their symptoms are not present, but that doesn't mean that they won't come back. This is because some illnesses are cyclical.
- Treatment is often not a straight line of improvement. It may have dips and lulls that seem like your loved one is taking steps backwards. This is not unusual and should not alarm you or cause you to give up hope.
- Mental illnesses are not anyone's fault. They are not caused by poor parenting or a weak character, nor are they something that someone can "snap out of."
- Mental illness strikes people from all walks of life, regardless of gender, age, race, religion, education, socioeconomic status, etc.
- When a loved one has a mental illness, all family members are affected in some way. It's okay to feel a gamut of emotions about the illness (and about your loved one). Help yourself by remembering to practice self-care on a regular basis.
- If you have the opportunity to go to individual therapy, family therapy, and/or attend support groups, this will likely help you during the more difficult times.
- Clients in treatment may appear to be selfish. They may need to be in order to best work through and understand their mental illness, triggers and coping strategies.
- Clients may come home from treatment exhausted (or sound exhausted when you talk to them on the phone). That is because they are. They spend about six hours a day talking about their emotions, their relationships, expectations, future, etc. as well as listening and supporting others in their groups. Often this highlights struggles, disappointments, frustrations and other painful emotions and experiences. That's why when they get home, they may not want to talk about these things right away.
- Clients need to heal on their own time. It's important for friends and family to understand that and align their expectations accordingly.
- Structure, schedules, and self-care are helpful for most people, and certainly true for those with mental illness.
- It's better to ask, than to ignore.
of the world's children and adolescents have mental disorders or problems
(World Health Organization)
1 in 4
one in four families has at least one family member with a mental disorder
(World Health Organization)
of young adults, ages 18-25, had a mental illness in 2016
(Substance Abuse and Mental
Health Services Administration)