• Staff Writer

Mental Health Support Begins at the Heart


You may not be able to “see” mental illness, but it still hurts people and their loved ones. Like any other disease, they need love, support, and understanding. Additionally, mental illness is painfully misunderstood. However, like many other diseases, there is hope, and mental illness can be curable, if not manageable, through treatment, medication, therapy, and the course of time.

Mental health support can be the cornerstone to their success. Understanding your role can be as important as understanding mental illness itself, not to mention create healthy boundaries for both your loved one and yourself.


When It Comes to Mental Health, Facts Matter


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness, ranging from mild to severe.

Whether or not you are aware of it, chances are you know someone suffering from a mental health disorder. You may not know they have mental illness due to shame, guilt, or stigma. How do you identify if your loved one has a mental illness so you can help detect and treat it early? There are seven basic signs of mental illness. Does your loved one have at least two or more of the following?

  • Change in feelings or demeanor

  • Loss of interest

  • Change in sleeping habits

  • Low energy

  • Difficulty interacting

  • Appetite or weight changes

  • Uncontrollable emotions

There are more warning signs, so it is good to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. There are also five basic types of mental illness:

  • Anxiety disorders

  • Personality disorders

  • Psychotic disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Anxiety is most common and affects nearly 30% of adults. Although considered an anxiety disorder, PTSD falls in the category of DSM-5 trauma- and stressor-related disorders. This newer classification requires exposure to a traumatic or stressful event as a diagnostic criterion. The good news is that anxiety disorders are the most treatable, allowing people with them to lead totally normal, productive, and healthy lives.


Don't Be Ashamed


When someone has cancer, people react with compassion. When people have severe diabetes, people react with compassion. When someone has a mental illness, people run for the hills. This is due in large part to the stigma surrounding mental illness. One very important way to help support mental illness is to help eliminate this stigma. Go to support groups. Get educated. Help stop the stigma.

Mental illness does not define someone who suffers from one, just as a person with diabetes or heart disease isn't defined by them. We can begin to support with empathy and compassion.

Mental health patients not only have to deal with their own medical challenges but also with shame, guilt, and bias. They deserve better than that. Why is all this so important? Because it's up to their support systems to help shed that unnecessary bias. The more we can do that as a society, the more a patient can concentrate on healing and getting the help they deserve.


Mental Illness Dos and Don'ts


When someone close to you has a mental illness, you may not know what to say. Regardless of how good your intentions are, some suggestions or comments can do more harm than good. Here are a few things best left unsaid.


“It’s all in your head.”


No, it is not. Chemical imbalances, brain chemistry, and past traumas are deep, misunderstood, and complex factors that come into play. This can come off as dismissive and invalidating.


“Things could be worse!” or “This too shall pass.”


No, it can’t. This can feel like you are trivializing the condition. No, it won’t. Their mental and emotional issues or trauma are theirs. Stay in the moment; stay empathetic.


“Just snap out of it!”


Ouch. That one hurts. A magical switch does not exist. When someone is in a funk or sinking into a low, asking them to simply not feel how they feel is dismissive and trivializing because mental illness is out of their control.


“But you have so much going for you.”


Mental illness does not discriminate. It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, or what your life circumstances are.


“Have you tried decaf or herbal tea?”


Stay in your lane, people. Mental illness is a brain disease that needs professional help, not “natural remedies.” You may mean well, but this can compound the issue. Before you ever consider saying this, put yourself in their shoes. Try not to “fix it." Just hear and try and understand them.


“Everyone gets bummed or feels nervous.”


Sure we all have those moments, but depression and anxiety can be debilitating to the point that getting out of bed and facing the day can be traumatic. Besides, it's best not to share your problems. Instead, listen to theirs.


Try Saying This Instead

  • “Thanks for sharing. How can I support you?”

  • “Let's talk. I’m listening.”

  • “Have you spoken to a doctor or therapist about how you are feeling?”

  • “I am proud of you for getting the support you need.”

  • “What can I do to help?”

  • “This must be hard for you, but you’re going to get through it.”

  • “I am there for you, and you’re not alone in this.”

  • “You are important to me.”

  • “I care about you.”

Keep your response simple. If appropriate, hold their hand, hug them, or let them cry. Crying may be uncomfortable, but it’s healthy. Listen, reiterate what you heard, and don’t try to fix them or be dismissive.


Mental health issues affect more than just the patient. That's why it's extremely important to understand as many nuances as possible, as well as learn the facts and remove the stigma associated with mental illness. As the saying goes, "It takes a village." Let's not forget that knowledge is key. Everyone from spouses, parents, caregivers, siblings, children, therapists, support groups, and therapists involved can be a lifesaver when it comes to supporting your loved one. That's why here at California Care Detox & Treatment, we offer family support through listening, empathy, integrity, education, and hope, along with a holistic approach to recovery. We provide a litany of resources to help guide you and your loved one when it comes to support and solidarity. To learn more about our programs and resources, reach out to us today by calling (949) 281-0632.

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