You are never alone

Quick Notes:

  • It’s sometimes difficult to know how to care for a loved one suffering from a mental health illness.

  • It’s important to do your research and speak to a medical professional.

  • Join a support group to speak to others who are also serving as a caregiver.

There are many stereotypes revolving around mental health illnesses. When someone suffers from depression, you can’t tell them to just “snap out of it” and “be happy.” That’s impossible for them. No one wants to be depressed. It just happens to them.

Caring for a loved one struggling with mental illness can be difficult. It’s stressful and you sometimes don’t know what to do. Many things you can do to help don’t require a medical degree.

Do your research

You need to understand your loved one’s mental illness. Experts recommend using PubMed, a medical research database from the U.S. National Library of Medicine that publishes roughly 500,000 new studies every year. To this day, there are nearly 30 million articles about medical research. The database can serve as a great tool to answer any questions you might have about mental health illnesses.

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After all, knowledge is power. If you search and search for answers, you’re taking ownership of the illness. While meeting with doctors, don’t be afraid to discuss what you have researched. Be willing to listen to their professional opinions. Be confident in your research and opinions, ask as many questions as possible, and communicate your wishes and decisions, especially if it’s about seeking more help for your loved one.

Find the best doctor

You need to understand your loved one’s mental health illness and how to possibly heal it. Do this by selecting the most informative, appropriate doctor for your needs. Find a doctor who can discuss certain drugs, surgeries, medical devices, and any procedures. It is recommended to find a functional or integrative medicine doctor who works with patients and their families to find the root cause of a patient’s health issue.

“These kinds of doctors dig deeper with their questions and their testing, and most of all, they have the root cause of your health issue in mind when thinking about your case,” said Adrienne Nolan-Smith, certified patient advocate and founder of WellBe, an education program focusing on bridging the gap between healthcare research and mental health awareness.

Nolan-Smith shared her own experience dealing with mental health issues when she was 20 years old. She visited half a dozen conventional doctors who always had the same answer for her. They didn’t work with her to solve the issue. Ultimately, she felt frustrated and hopeless. She took a chance and visited functional and integrative medicine doctors, and she noticed the improvements.

Her doctors worked with her to find a solution. For the first time, she found doctors who wanted to assist her, discuss research, answer all of the questions she had, and communicated thoroughly with her.

Some additional tips

It’s difficult to know what to do when it comes to caring for a loved one with a mental health illness. Most important? Be a friend and advocate. Listen to their concerns and be there for them when they need you. Let them know they are never alone.

Solve only one issue at a time. You don’t need to figure everything out right away. Take it one day at a time, and this will help prevent burn out.

Just in case you need more help, you can join a support group to speak to others who are also serving as a caregiver for a loved one suffering from a mental health illness. NAMI Basics is a free support group for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents. NAMI Family-to-Family is a class for families, partners, or close friends. Finally, NAMI Homefront is a support group for families, partners, or close friends of military veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Remember that you are never alone. Someone is always in your corner, just like you are supporting your loved one.

A deeper dive – Related reading from the 101:

If you notice someone is always exhausted, they could be suffering from a mental health illness. Learn more about this symptom.

Learn how to identify childhood mental health illnesses and raise awareness of the growing concern.