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5 things to keep in mind when your loved one suffers from mental illness

Krithiha Rajam
21st Jun 2017
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When someone suffers from mental illness, friends and family suffer along as well. When there is no 'one size fits all' model, how do we deal with someone suffering from mental illness? 

According to a report by the World Health Organisation, a whopping 7.5 percent Indians suffer from mental illness –a major or minor disorder that would require expert intervention. The WHO also predicts that the percentage of people suffering with mental health illness in India will increase to 20 percent by 2020.

This means that, in all likelihood, each one of us would know someone suffering from a mental illness. In most cases, it is not just the person that suffers, but friends and family member suffer along with them as well.

But with all the stigma and lack of awareness surrounding mental illnesses, do we even know how to deal with someone who suffers from mental illness? More so, if the person is a family member or a friend, do we even know how to start dealing with the situation?

Know what you are getting yourself into

It is important to find out everything about the disorder that your close one is suffering from. Knowing what you are dealing with will help dealing with it in better way. It would also help take the big problem off the table – by removing all the misconceptions about the disorder we tend to never question.

However, it is not enough to just educate yourself. It is equally important to help the person suffering from an illness understand what he or she is going through.

Accepting the reality

It is okay for the dynamics of your relationship to change with a person after he or she is diagnosed with mental illness. You might even have to renegotiate your emotional relationship with the person. Though it could take time, it is important to accept the changes and establish a new base to begin with.

Reach out to support groups

In a difficult situation, no one can help us better than the person who has been there and done that. Hospitals and social media come in handy in finding support groups. However, we need to be careful with finding the right group, as it works both ways.

As much as you can get help from people who have been there before you, you will also be of great help to people who have to come there deal with it after you.

Talking about your situation with others who are fighting similar battle will also go a long way in learning more about the illness. Being more informed always helps.

Share responsibility

When we care for a person who needs help, you might be inclined to take his or her complete responsibility. But we need to understand that by being protective beyond a certain level, we may end up harming the person. It is important to know where to draw the line. Sandhya Menon, who suffered from bipolar disorder, told YourStory,

“I hated being told what to do. I was more willing to accept their suggestions only on the better days, after an episode. You need a ton of patience when you’re dealing with someone who’s suffering.”

Letting the person with mental illness to take up responsibility would help the person flourish. But this has to be done with utmost empathy and care.

Take care of yourself

In many cases, especially with elder family members, an immediate reaction to discovering that a person suffers from mental illness is feeling guilty. Overcoming self-blame and acknowledging that mental illness is no one’s fault is important in dealing with such a situation.

It is also important to understand that you will be able to help a loved one, only if you take care of yourself. Eating healthy food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important. Therapies are also available to help friends and family members deal with similar situations.

Maintaining a personal space, a group of friends who understand you helps. Having a hobby helps too.

When it comes to dealing with mental illnesses, there is no ‘one size fits all’ model that can help everyone. However, qualities such as empathy, informed decision-making, and self-awareness go a long way in helping us help our loved ones better.

Images: Shutterstock.

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