My husband and I were shocked to hear the psychiatrist’s words. We were ignorant about the world of mental health. We wanted to be caring and supportive but had no idea how.
Today’s blog was written by someone who knows firsthand what he’s talking about. Founder of Fresh Hope (freshhope.us), Brad Hoefs, lives with bipolar himself. He has plenty of excellent help to offer. Be sure to check out the website.
Thank you Brad for your wise and helpful insights. We need them!
“I am offering 20 simple things someone can do in order to be caring, loving and supportive to those of us who have bipolar disorder. I do not believe this list is exhaustive. I’d love it if you would add to the list or clarify what I have on this list by commenting on this post.
20 Things you can do support a loved one who has a mental illness:
- Advocate for them with their psychiatrist and therapist when necessary.
- Pray for them.
- Take care of yourself so that you might be at your best in helping them.
- Take walks with them.
- Encourage them to get out of the house with you whenever possible.
- Engage them in conversations about life, not just about their mental illness.
- Respect their desire to not tell or tell others about their illness.
- Learn as much as possible about their mental health diagnosis. Understanding the disease/disorder is imperative to being understanding and compassionate.
- Don’t assume that everything they struggle with is due to the mental health issue.
- Find healthy ways to deal with and process your own anxiety about the future.
- Remember they are not choosing to be sick; offer empathy but not sympathy.
- Separate them from their illness. In other words, remember who they are “without” their illness.
- Attempt to keep your relationship peaceful with limited stress.
- Hold them accountable without anger or scolding.
- Talk about important things when they seem open and alert, but don’t overload them with the important things.
- Ask them if there’s anything you can do for them regularly.
- Be patient.
- When they seem “off” ask them how they are feeling. Don’t tell them that they are “off”. Instead share with them some of your observations.
- Don’t treat them as they are “less than”.
- Please don’t tell them that “this” (mental illness) is their problem and not yours. By doing this you are simply isolating and rejecting them. Instead, tell them you are in “this” with them and you aren’t going anywhere.
So, what would you add to this list? What would you take off the list?
Please remember this: finding a support group for you, as someone who loves a family member who struggles with a mental health issue, is crucial for your well-being. We really do need each other. We are not alone!
Please know that your love, encouragement, understanding, compassion, mercy and knowledge about bp are a HUGE part of assisting your child in their journey towards wellness!
In closing, I offer this short video to you to share with those around you. It might help them to understand that your child. They just happen to have bipolar disorder. Click here to view the video.
(From me, Dena)
Dear God, please use this information to encourage and uplift those who read it today.
And may this Bible verse be like a breath of fresh air:
May the grace of our Lord be poured out abundantly on you and your child, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 1:14)
Meet Brad Hoefs: founder of Fresh Hope, a national network of faith-based peer support groups for those who have mental health challenges and also for their loved ones. He is a certified Intentional Peer Specialist, and also serves on the State of Nebraska Advisory Committee on Mental Health. Brad was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 1995.
One of Brad’s passions is to empower peers to live a full and rich life in spite of a mental health challenge. Brad’s blog is “Living Well!” He is the author of Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis. He has a B.A. in Communications and a Masters of Divinity. Brad has been married to his wife, Donna, since 1979. They have two adult married children and love being grandparents to the grandkids! He is the pastor of Community of Grace in Elkhorn, Nebraska.