How To Support Your Loved One With A Mental Illness

It’s really hard to deal with someone who is battling mental illness.

You usually can’t see them suffering and sometimes they may act irrationally.

Remember that it isn’t their fault. Remember that they are dealing with symptoms of an illness. I know that’s probably difficult to remember when your spouse is acting sad, angry, anxious or generally unpleasant; but they don’t like how they are feeling or acting any better than you do.

Do NOT tell them to “calm down” or to “stop thinking about it”.

Do NOT tell them that they are overreacting.

It might seem ridiculous that they’ve having a panic attack at a restaurant you’ve been to twenty-thousand times.

It might seem like they haven’t done their laundry in weeks (maybe months?).

They look like they haven’t washed their hair/face in weeks.

Try to get them out of the house, even if it’s on a walk around the block. They might resist, but it will be good for them.

If you can, try to get them out of their comfort zone a little: go to a new restaurant or a restaurant you like and haven’t been to in a while. Pushing them outside of their comfort zone will help them break the shackles of anxiety, which they may be unable to do on their own.

They say laughter is the best medicine. Try it.

Help them with some basic stuff like putting away laundry. Even if you just help them with matching socks, the motivation of another person helps.

Arrange for their house to be cleaned. I use an app called Handy to schedule cleanings.

Get dinner delivered to their house, or bring them a home cooked meal.

Show them love, affection, and respect (even when they seem unlovable).

Ask them what they need. They might not know. Mental illness makes basic things like “needs” take a back seat.

Come up with an action plan together for when things get really bad (like if they have a panic attack).

Don’t try to fix them.

I found this tweet thread that illustrated what “helping your loved one with mental illness” really looks like (open it to read):

How To Manage Life As A Spouse Of A Person With Mental Illness

First of all, thank you. If your spouse is unable to say it, I’m saying it for them. You are doing such an amazing thing by taking care of them to the best of your ability. You may have known your spouse was battling mental illness or not; either way you’re here and supporting them. You are amazing.

Second, if you’re able to, don’t forget to take time for yourself. It’s so easy to forget about you when you’re taking care of another person, but you need to care of yourself too. You know when you’re on a plane, half-listening to the emergency instructions, and they say “please put your mask on before assisting others”? Yeah, do that.

Find something that brings you joy so that you don’t become discouraged, overwhelmed, lost, or jump in your own dark hole. Find moments of quiet to enjoy something simple. Give yourself space to breathe.  You deserve it.

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Author: Becca Risa Luna

Seattle-based fashion writer and personal essayist. Likes designer handbags, glaring openness, and subtle vulgarity.

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