Dr. Lloyd I Sederer, MD, a psychiatrist and public health advocate, recently published important tips for helping your loved one with mental illness. In his 35 years of practice, Dr. Sederer has met with thousands of family members who are desperate to help their loved ones in the throes of mental anguish. Even though serious mental illnessess like depression are treatable and show higher improvement rates than chronic physical illnesses, proper therapy for those suffering with mental illness is often hindered by family members who are unwilling to participate in the recovery process.
Dr. Sederer suggests several things that a loved one can do to facilitate recovery for their family member. First, if your loved one is willing to share their troubles, learn as much as you can about their disorder. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or the Mental Health Association (MHA), will give you information and provide a support system. Secondly, do not instigate a fight with your loved one. This may result in them retreating further into their shell and cutting off any and all ties with you. You need to maintain a lifeline into their feelings, even if you don’t understand them.
Dr. Sederer also advises that you recognize the limitations of our current healthcare system. He says “It may not be fair, or right, but health care in general — not just the mental health system — now demands informed and self-directed consumers and families.” He suggests that you use the experience of advocates and others who have gone before you to put together the best treatment plan for your loved one. And lastly, do not give up. Mental illness takes time to heal, and your loved one needs you to go the distance. Plan to dig in and stay by their side for the long haul. You will provide them with security and you will feel like you are actively participating in their recovery.
© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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