How to Help a Loved One With Mental Illness

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

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • S.Martin


    March 18th, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    It is very important to be a good listener whenever somebody close to you is going through a tough time or has some problem.Just listening to the person and being there for the person can help him/her immensely.

  • Henry.O


    March 18th, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    My friend’s brother was a drug addict for many many years.Nobody liked him and he used to blow away everybody’s money on his addiction.

    But years later,like he had something of a relevation,he decided to quit.By then,all his family hated him.Yet they supported him in his quest of quitting the addiction an leading a normal life.And today he is alright.

    What I want to say is that if an addict’s family can come to his rescue,a person who is affected by a mental health problem deserves all the support he can get from his family.

  • Hannah


    March 19th, 2011 at 5:34 AM

    Love understanding and support are the best ways to help someone with mental illness. When you close that door to understanding then there can never be any kind of closure or help for the family member in need.

  • Cameron


    March 22nd, 2011 at 2:58 PM

    Understanding the condition is one of the best ways to help. If you don’t understand a mental illness and try to talk about it, you’ll risk offending the person or even get things thrown at you in frustration.

  • Nadine


    March 22nd, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    And by the way, movies don’t count as research. Very few fictional works are accurate in how they portray any mental illness to the point where they are more objectionable than informative.

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