“It is not the the bruises on the body that hurt. It is the wounds of the heart and the scars on the mind.” ― Aisha Mirza
We like to comfort ourselves with the thought that medicine has advanced so much that few things are still a mystery and that most, if not all, diseases can be resolved. There is only a category of diseases that still cause fear, confusion and anxiety, the ones about which people talk in a low voice – mental disorders. However, even such an extreme situation as having or living with a loved one who has a mental disorder can be survived with the right approach.
How to Help Your Loved One with Mental Health Problems
Afflictions of the mind are in a way more severe than that of the body. While one type is visible and treatable from the outside, the other is locked away, invisible and personal but just as damaging. There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness, most common among them being depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia. Each has their own early warning signs and symptoms but in terms of cure, medicine is still lacking.
Without an immediate medical fix and only mild drug-based alleviation available, a person suffering from a mental disorder has to learn how to live with the disease. Just like a physical affliction, mental disorders impair the most common and simple acts of life, making them harder or even impossible to do.
Schizophrenia in particular visibly alters the behavioral patterns of an individual. Those suffering from it seem to have lost touch with reality, making hallucinations, delusions, thought and movement disorders a common occurrence.
When dealing with a schizophrenic patient, doctors also look at who does schizophrenia affect besides him. Most often, loved ones have a hard time dealing with the dramatic behavioral change that the patient goes through.
Just like in any extreme situation, there are things to avoid and things to do if you or a loved one has a mental disorder. The right approach can make the difference between a long period of suffering and loneliness and a peaceful transition into a new, necessarily different lifestyle.
As a person suffering from a mental disorder, it is easy to isolate yourself from others, even loved ones. School or work become impossible environments and your usual hobbies or pleasures no longer bring the same pleasure. You start to assume that everyone is like the ones who got scared or infuriated by your disease. This type of reaction should always be avoided.
Aside from the person suffering from the diseased mental condition, family and friends around him or her also experience a loved one becoming sick differently. Some outright deny the warning signs or worry because of the social stigma. Others adopt a condescending tone and treat people suffering from mental disorders as they would a helpless child.
As a relative of someone suffering from a mental disorder, you should avoid this kind of reaction that places even more emotional stress on the person in suffering. Blaming them for a situation that is completely out of their hands is neither fair nor helpful in such a situation.
Parents often have to entirely reconstruct their hopes and dreams for their children upon the discovery that they suffer from a mental illness. Disappointments and failed expectations can lead to a build-up of anger and frustration.
According to specialists, those feelings find their way out through comments that can be deeply damaging to people suffering from a mental illness. Implying that mental illness is a sign of emotional weakness or minimizing its importance can fall in this category.
Dealing with a mental disorder in any sort of context is much like battling the elements. You are pitted against an implacable force that changes your environment and challenges you on an everyday basis. However, methods of coping are diverse and very effective.
As a person suffering from mental illness, your primary tools of survival are your support network and professional therapy. Aside from the unwavering help of family and friends, you can often find the best support and ability to relate to others that are in your shoes. Support groups can provide the understanding and human contact that you long for since your mental condition placed a social stigma on you in the eyes of some.
Therapy is of an immense help, teaching you how to accept the seemingly uncontrollable changes that are taking place in your life. Talking to a specialist about your condition can give you the certainty that your situation is neither hopeless nor unique.
As a loved one of someone suffering from a mental disorder, the first thing you need to do in order to help is to educate yourself on the disease. Understanding the condition and its symptoms beforehand can eliminate the shock of the novel situation you find yourself in. This way, you can help the one in need instead of confusedly trying to understand what is happening.
Mental disorders can impede on the ability to fulfill day to day activities. As part of the family or group of friends of someone suffering from a mental disorder, you need to step up and actively offer your help. Even if uneasy at first, be sure that your effort is needed and appreciated. Talk to the person in suffering as you did before because, in the end, they’re still the same person, only plagued by a terrible disease.
By following these indications on what to do and what not to do when you or someone you love has a mental disorder, such a situation can greatly be improved. Allowing others to help you and trying to maintain a level of autonomy will make living with a mental disorder manageable and even enjoyable.
Conversely, offering support and understanding to someone you know who suffers from a mental disorder can alleviate most of the hardships associated with the disease, such as social isolation and the inability to perform simple tasks. Together and in time, the extreme situation of having a mental disorder can be overcome.