How to Properly Care for Someone with Mental Illness
Mental Health/Wellness

How to Properly Care for Someone with Mental Illness


If someone under your care is struggling with a mental illness, it can definitely take a toll on your own mental wellness. That’s why it’s important to keep abreast of best practices, tips and techniques to help you navigate any potentially tricky situations.

You don’t want to risk worsening someone else’s condition, and you definitely don’t want to put your own mental health on the line either.

What that in mind, let’s explore the ways in which you can properly care for someone with a mental illness.

Lead them in the right direction

If you think someone you love has a mental health condition,encourage them to get professional help (if they aren’t doing so already). Although society has come a long way, there’s still a stigma that surrounds mental health issues, so this can be a tricky topic.

Start by talking about the benefits of professional counseling and how it can be helpful to anyone. You’ll want to avoid labeling this person or trying to diagnose them yourself. Mental health issues can betricky and you’ll only upset someone by suggesting they have a specific mentalhealth disorder.

If you think they’re against counseling, encourage them to get help for a related issue like insomnia or a lack of energy. These things are often, but not always, related to mental health issues.

Discuss the diagnosis

Once your loved one receives a diagnosis, talk about that diagnosis with the doctor. What does it mean, exactly? And how do things change from here?

The person’s doctor can help you figure out what’s best for him or her on a daily basis. For example, the doctor may recommend getting on a routine or following a specific diet. There may also be medication involved. If this is the case, talk about frequency and potential side effects.

When someone is in your care, you’ll want to know which behaviors are most concerning and when to call the doctor.

Keep in mind that a diagnosis is not a definition. A mental health diagnosis should not define anyone. It can also change over time, so be prepared.

If the person in your care was recently diagnosed, be prepared to discuss the following:

  • What does the diagnosis mean to this person?
  • How much support they think they will need
  • How much support you can realistically provide

Try not to feel anxious about this conversation. It’s all about finding the right kind of help for this person, so it should be positive. In reality, they may even feel relieved that they have a diagnosis and it may make caregiving easier.

Keep abreast of any changes

Anyone’s mental health diagnosis can change at any point. Industry recommendations and medications may also change. This is why it’s best to keep yourself in the loop.

If you have permission, try to attend all important doctor’s visits. This will give you the opportunity to hear about the person’s progress from the doctor and ask any questions you may have. You can get involved and help explore treatment options if you know what’s going on with the patient. Be sure to take notes, so that you can review things with the person in your care later.

Prepare for anything

As a general rule, you should always keep the following on hand:

  • Emergency phone numbers
  • A safety plan for any potential dangers, including suicide risk
  • A list of medications the person is taking
  • A list of concerning side effects to look for
  • Early warning signs of upcoming issues
  • Instructions for someone to take over in the event something happens to you
  • Legal documents, such as power of attorney or guardianship paperwork)

As you’re preparing this information, think about what someone else would need to know in order to care for this person. Keep all that information in one clearly-marked folder.

Throughout it all, remember to take care of yourself. You can’t properly care for another person if you are mentally and physically exhausted. So remember to rest well, eat right and take breaks whenever necessary.

Caring for someone with a mental illness can be a full-time job, and it’s not meant for one person alone. Make sure you have a team of people to take over whenever you need a break. The person in your care will only benefit when you’re rested and happy.

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