How to Help A Loved One With Addiction or Mental Illness

If you suspect a family member or close friend is struggling with mental illness or addiction, you can almost feel helpless. Wanting desperately to help someone who doesn’t appear to want help is a difficult place to be in. Luckily, you are not alone in this struggle. Mental illness and addiction are very common. However, this does mean that there are plenty of resources available to help you and your loved one through this difficult time.

Here are some tips for approaching and helping a loved one who is struggling.

Suggest a Treatment Center 

This can be a delicate topic to broach, but is incredibly necessary. If you perceive your loved one needs help beyond what you can do for them (or what they can do for themselves), it’s important that they know there are places that can help. To find a place nearby, simply do an online search. For example, you can search “Co-Occuring Addiction Treatment“, if you suspect your loved one is suffering from mental illness in addition to battle addiction. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to seeking help for mental illness and addiction, so it’s important to let them know you support them and approach them free of judgement.

Let Them Know You’re There For Them

Bring a group of family members or friends together to let your loved one know they are cared for. This doesn’t have to be a serious “intervention”, it can just be a quiet gathering of people offering love, help, and support. Mental illness and addiction are very sensitive, personal topics. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to respect your loved one’s boundaries when talking about it, and not pushing them further than they want to go. A person suffering with addiction or mental illness likely feels like their life is completely out of their control, so it’s important to allow them to be in control of these conversations.

Check in On Them Often

We can tell people that we’re there for them all day, but sometimes, people aren’t in a place where they can reach out for help. Sometimes, it’s our responsibility to reach out to them. This can sometimes mean taking a big risk, as it may spark feelings of anger, pushiness, and disrespect. But if you truly feel that your friend or family member is struggling but refusing to reach out, sometimes taking the risk of upsetting them is worse than the alternative of leaving them to struggle alone.

Take Care Of Yourself

If you’re in a relationship with someone who is suffering from addiction or mental illness, it can be very easy to neglect yourself and feel completely responsible for their well being. This actually does more harm to their recovery than good. It allows them to become completely emotionally dependent on you, and also enables their behavior. Not only does this wear you down, but it sets back their progress. Set boundaries for yourself so you can remain emotionally strong and healthy. This may seem like “tough love”, or like you’re being cruel, but really you’re taking care of the both of you so you can be present for when they really need you without feeling drained.

Caring for someone who is struggling with mental illness or addiction can be particularly challenging. Outwardly, it may look like nothing is wrong. It can almost feel harder, because sometimes there are no tangible steps to take, such as doctors appointments or medications. Make sure your loved on knows that you are there for them and are willing to help. But also know that ultimately, getting help and getting better is up to them and can’t be forced.

Wassana Lampech

Wassana Lampech is a medical technology graduate and a freelance writer. She has been writing since her college days, and has been a freelance writer for the past 4 years. You can follow her on Twitter here: @wassmam

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