Why Is It Important to Educate Myself on My Loved One’s Mental Illness?

Discovering that a loved one has a mental illness can be downright life-changing sometimes. Suddenly an entire layer of understanding can be applied to your loved one, and you may feel confused about when their mental illness developed, how long they’ve had it, what symptoms they’ve gone through, and even how you’ve affected them. It’s important to note that being diagnosed with a mental illness doesn’t mean your loved one has changed, it simply means that you are learning more about who they are. The American Psychological Association (APA) lists several coping strategies that family and friends need to utilize should their loved one be diagnosed with a mental illness:

  • Preserve your relationships with others close to you for emotional support
  • If one of your children are diagnosed, be sure to set aside one-on-one time with your other children so they do not feel abandoned
  • Keep an open line of communication open with your diagnosed loved one and entire family
  • Try to maintain an accepting and loving attitude, while holding realistic expectations for your loved one
  • Find support, which may include family therapy, couple’s counseling, or even family classes through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Be sure to not place too high of expectations on yourself, either. It may take some time for you to come to terms with a loved one’s diagnosis – after all, their diagnosis could involve changes to the roles of you and your other family members. The next best step that you can take is to educate yourself on their mental illness so that you can provide the best support while also being able to make proper sense of your experiences with them. By educating yourself, you:

  • Can find resources to better assist them or yourself in times of crisis
  • Can identify their symptoms more easily
  • Can feel at peace knowing that what your loved one is going through is a normal experience for the mental illness they have
  • Can help them with medication if it’s needed
  • Can know that you are trying your best to understand their needs in order to provide them with full love, acceptance, and support

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