Helping Someone You Love With a Mental Illness (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2006
Perhaps you have a friend or a close family member with some form of mental illness. How can you best help them? While there is much written about the various types of mental illness, very little attention is paid to helping friends and family deal with the ongoing nature of many emotional problems. And while there is often little real help for the mentally ill due to funding restraints, you will soon discover that, as a friend of a mentally sick person, there will be even less resources available to you, their primary helper.
Per capita, less money is spent in the area of mental health than physical health, despite the fact that mental health problems in all their forms are far more prevalent than other types of illnesses. Our reluctance as a society to speak out about mental illness effectively aids and abets our governments to sweep the increasing problem of mental health care under the carpet. To best help your friend or relative, it is up to those of us unimpeded by mental illness to become advocates for the emotionally unwell, demanding that our governments direct more money into this aspect of community health.
To assist a sick friend or family member, you can take action on three fronts:
- Educate members of the public as to the prevalence of mental illness
in the community
- Lobby for governmental changes
- Educate yourself as to the nature of your friend’s illness.
The first two avenues are long-term processes but which nevertheless are vitally important. As mental illness will affect every single one of us, either directly or indirectly, during the course of our lives, permanent, positive change in both public perception and government legislature is mandatory.
The third avenue requires you to work on yourself, your attitude to the mentally ill, and your own coping abilities. You may find that it is harder to change yourself than the government!
To help you along, we will be looking at practical coping techniques
that will be beneficial to both you and your loved one.