When a Loved One Has a Mental Illness

It’s hard to watch a loved one deal with mental illness. You want to help. Yet you may not know what to do. Your loved one may even push you away. But don’t give up. Your support is needed now more than ever. Talk to your loved one’s health care provider. Or, contact a group for families of people with mental illness. They can help give you the guidance you need.

Mature mom comforts adult daughter.

What you can do

Living with mental illness can be overwhelming. Your loved one may say or do things that shock or frighten you. Sometimes, your loved one may resist treatment. Knowing what to do can help you cope:

  • Help your loved one get proper care. Often, people with a mental illness deny there’s a problem. Or, they may not be able to seek help on their own.

  • Encourage your loved one to stick with treatment. This may be your most crucial job. Medicines that treat mental illness can have side effects. As a result, your loved one may stop taking them. But this will likely cause symptoms to come back. You might also want to attend health care provider visits with your loved one to discuss medicine and other issues.

  • Provide emotional support. Encourage your loved one to share his or her feelings. Listen, and don’t judge. Let your loved one know he or she can count on you.

  • Be patient. The healing process takes time. In some cases, your loved one may never fully recover. But his or her symptoms will likely improve.

  • Invite your loved one to take part in activities. But don’t push.

  • Take care of yourself. Helping your loved one can be very stressful. Take time to care for yourself. You’ll have more patience and will be better able to cope.


National Alliance on Mental Illness 800-950-6264 www.nami.org

National Institute of Mental Health 866-615-6464 www.nimh.nih.gov

Mental Health America 800-969-6642 www.nmha.org

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.