How To Support A Family Member Living With Serious Mental Illness

Posted February 5, 2020 by in Health + Fitness
How To Support A Family Member Living With Serious Mental Illness

It’s difficult to watch someone you love suffer from serious mental illness. It’s understandable if you feel frustrated about the situation and even helpless at times.

It’s in your best interest to stay focused on what you can be doing to help support your family member during their time of need. It’s important to know that you didn’t cause it and that you’re not responsible for curing it. Remind yourself that you can try your best to help but shouldn’t feel any pressure to solve the problem.

Use the following advice as a roadmap for what you can be doing to offer your love and support to someone in your life who you care about deeply:

Do Your Homework

A good place to start is to educate yourself about their mental illness in detail. Ask questions and seek answers so you get a better idea of what behaviors and symptoms to expect. Learn more about treatment plan options, and read stories of others who are living with it and what they’re doing to cope.

You may start to see this person in a new light and find that you’re more able to accept that not all they do and say is in their control. You may also be challenging some of your preconceived notions and assumptions as you dig deeper.

Seek out Resources for Them

You can support a family member living with serious mental illness by seeking out resources for them that might be beneficial. Having a health condition can make it more challenging to hold down a job and take care of oneself. Therefore, step in and point them in the right direction so they can become a productive member of society. For example, make them aware of disability employment services providers that can help them find work if they want a job and need to make an income.

There is more to a person than their disability, and your loved one deserves the chance to put their skills and talents to use.  

Listen & Avoid Judgment  

Another way to support your family member who has serious mental illness is to lend an open ear and listen. Avoid jumping to conclusions, making assumptions, and being judgmental in your conversations. Instead, let the person talk and be there to hear them out so they can get their emotions and feelings out in the open. It’s a great way to build trust between each other and to work on forming a deeper bond between the two of you.

All your loved one may need sometimes is someone to talk to who will actively listen so they can get whatever is bothering them off their chest.

Focus on the Positives

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the difficulties and daily challenges that come from having a serious mental illness. However, you and your family member will be better off applying positive thinking techniques and trying to be optimistic about the future. Think of all the fun times and the laughs you two have shared over the years. Focus on the days and moments that your loved one is feeling good and has a lot of energy.

Take note of any small improvements that are occurring throughout treatment and stay hopeful that together you two can find some peace and happiness in your days.

Get Involved in Their Treatment Plan

You can also support your loved one by getting more involved in their treatment plan. Offer to go to their doctor’s appointments with them and encourage them to take the actions the professionals are suggesting. Understand what the doctors are recommending and try to keep tabs on if your loved one is following through with taking their medication and practicing self-care, for example. Ask what you can do to help them succeed, such as driving them to the grocery store or helping them to clean their house and do laundry.

These small acts of kindness can go a long way in making your family member feel loved and cared for and secure.

Find A Support Group

The reality is that it can be upsetting to see someone who you love struggling and not happy. You can support a family member living with serious mental illness by finding a support group for yourself and learning more about how other people cope with it. Stigma can keep family members from reaching out for support, but you have to be able to overcome this so that you get the help you need.

You might find it truly comforting to swap ideas with others who are in your situation and to gain new tips regarding how you can be there for your loved one. There are many programs and support groups out there, so you might want to research your choices and visit different meetings before picking one.

Take Care of Yourself

You aren’t going to be much help to your loved one if you feel drained and tired all the time. Be sure to take good care of yourself and not forget about your well-being along the way. You can support a family member living with serious mental illness by being a role model and showing them ways to practice self-care.

Although you may want to be involved in their life as much as possible, it’s in your best interest to take breaks from it all and to continue working toward your personal goals. Have a life of your own, so you’re not continuously swept up by what your loved one is going through and pushing your responsibilities to the side.


These are a few ways that you can support a family member living with serious mental illness. Put these ideas into action, and you’ll likely be able to find some comfort in your situation. Be proud of yourself taking the initiative and remaining open-minded about learning more about mental illness in general. Have realistic expectations about the illness and your limitations so that you can stay well and offer the best support possible for your loved one over the years.