To simply put it, you must try and be understanding. You must be informed. You must try to reach out for support and work closely with your loved one’s treatment team. Try to find resources. Try to work on setting realistic expectations. Try and stay positive for your loved one, who is consistently combating a small creature in their head. People living with a mental illness experience stigma and stereotypes surrounding their diagnoses that can spur embarrassment, anger, hopelessness, and fear. Try your best to destroy that stigma. Stray away from saying things like, “She’s crazy. He’s crazy. They’re schizo. They’re bipolar." Instead of ripping apart stigma at the seams, that kind of talk simply encourages the idea that mental illness is an identity, or a mentality. Inform yourself, because education is the true foundation of support. Families that are provided with education and are involved in the treatment process, notice that their loved ones experienced a reduction in symptoms and relapse. The family environment will naturally improve, and it is healthy for the patient. For example, without information and education, it’s difficult for families and friends to comprehend and understand the seriousness of the symptoms, such as horrifying thoughts and hallucinations correlated with Schizophrenia, or suicidal thoughts associated with severe depression. It’s common for families to wonder why their loved ones just can’t snap out of it. Not understanding how the illness functions and the symptoms will be hard on you and your loved one. Look into family therapy sessions, connect with your loved one’s therapist and psychiatrist, overall, be involved with the process, and when it gets hard, reach out for support.

Things will inevitably become unstable, and to speak out about it is healthy. Sometimes stigma can prevent families from finding resources and talking about it, but it gets hard for everyone. Through support can you gain understanding and strength. Find resources! There are an abundance of books and articles written from the perspective of a person living with a mental illness or a person living with a loved one that has a mental illness. Talk to your loved one’s therapist or psychologist.

Supporting a loved one through a diagnosis and beyond is undeniably difficult, but there are manifested ways to help a loved one living with a mental illness. While that is a difficult reality, medications have improved, and therapy and new evidence-based psychotherapeutic inventions have proven to be powerful and effective.

People living with mental illness still have an identity and a voice. Spur conversations with your loved one in an open and honest manner. Ask what they’re feeling, struggling with, and if they’d like anything from you. Work with them to set realistic expectations. Praise your loved ones on their progress and vigor. It’s hard, and through the flood of emotions and hardships and dark emotions, there’s a light.