Mental illness is that giant elephant in the room that everyone knows is there, but refuses to bring up. Most people suffering from mental illness don't want anyone to know, and usually you won't know unless they tell you. But why would they do that when they know that when you look at them, all you will see is their anxiety disorder, or their bipolar disorder, or their depression? In our society it is considered okay to feel awkward and uncomfortable at the mention of mental illness, and this needs to stop. Here are some tips to keep in mind about people with mental illness.
1. They are not their mental illness; they have a mental illness.
Just because someone has depression or anxiety does not mean that they are depression or anxiety. Mental illness is a part of a person It does not define that person.
2. If they could get over it they would.
If people with mental illness could snap their fingers and be rid of the disease that is taking over their mind they would, in a heartbeat. But they can't, so just accept them how they are. Which leads me to the next point ...
3. Educate yourself.
Dive into research about the mental illness your loved one has. Read books and articles and talk to doctors or people who have experience with the subject. Know that this does exist and it is a very real thing.
4. Stop trying to fix them.
Stop looking at people that have a mental illness as broken human beings. They are beautiful how they are, so learn to love them with the faults they have. And ...
5. Learn their coping skills.
Almost everyone with a mental illness has a set of coping skills that help to calm them down when their disorder takes over their mind. Learn what they are and offer to help them when they are having an episode.
6. Learn their triggers.
Every human being on this earth has triggers that make them feel some sort of emotion. The difference is that people with mental illness just need extra help getting their emotions under control. Learn what sets them off and if it can be avoided, then help to make that happen.
7. They need you to be consistent.
They need you to be there, and I mean really be there. They need someone consistent in their lives because chaos and inconsistency is all they know. Show them you care about what they are going through and make it a priority to be there for them.
8. Don't be afraid of them or look at them differently.
If someone confides in you that they are suffering from mental illness, don't shy away from them, because odds are they want you to move in closer to be there for them. Which leads me to the next point...
9. They trust you... a lot.
If they tell you about their deepest secret that means they trust you and are expecting you to keep it. Don't blow it.
10. Support them.
Don't be afraid to offer to go to doctor's visits and ask questions, or go to therapy sessions with them. Odds are if they have included you in this journey they want you in it for the long run.