Helping a loved one cope with mental illness

Many people often ask, “How do I know when to help?” Some signs that a friend or family member may have a mental illness and could need your help are:

  • They suddenly no longer have interest in things they used to enjoy.
  • They seem angry or sad for little or no reason.
  • They don’t seem to enjoy anything anymore.
  • They have told you about or seem to be hearing voices or having unsettling thoughts.
  • They seem emotionally numb like they don’t feel anything anymore.
  • They eat a lot more or less than they used to.
  • Their sleep patterns have changed.
  • They seem to be anxious or terrified about situations or objects in life that seem normal to you and to others.
  • They’ve been missing more and more time from work or school.
  • They’ve been drinking heavily and/or using drugs to cope.
  • They are avoiding their close friends and family members.
  • They are talking about taking their life or feeling hopeless

Support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is living with mental illness. This support provides a network of practical and emotional help. This is also where Healthy Muslim Families can help. We are a network made up of parents, children, siblings, spouses or partners, extended families, close friends, coworkers, coaches, teachers, and religious leaders passionate to positively help people in need. Learn more about our programs:

Caring for anyone living with an illness can be challenging. In order to best do so, here are a few tips to help you support someone living with mental illness.

  1. Learn about the illness and its signs and symptoms. Also, learn more about how treatments work so that you know what side effects and improvements you may see.
  2. Encourage treatment. Offer to help make those first appointments with a doctor to find out what’s wrong or accompany the person to the doctor-these first steps can be hard. If you do accompany the person, write down any notes or questions either of you have in advance so that you cover all the major points.
  3. Help set specific goals that are realistic and can be approached one step at a time.
  4. Don’t assume you know what the person needs. Ask how you can help. Listen carefully to the response.
  5. Provide emotional support. You can play an important role in helping someone who’s not feeling well feel less alone and ashamed. They are not to blame for their illness, but they may feel that they are. Help encourage hope.

Although ultimate responsibility lies with the person living with the illness, you can play an active role in your friend or loved one’s treatment.

Now more than ever, it is important to reduce stigma and encourage people not to suffer in silence, but to seek help. Always remember that with help, there is hope.