When your loved one is suffering from mental illness, or even if they haven’t been diagnosed but are going through a difficult time, it can be hard to watch. It can impact you and your wellbeing, especially if they aren’t getting the professional help they need to get better.
A common response for people who are watching their loved ones struggle with mental illness is to go into “fix it” mode. We rush in to help, find it nearly impossible to make lasting effective change, and often end up feeling hopeless. You might be trying everything you can think of to help them, but nothing seems to be working. When our loved ones aren’t doing well, it undoubtedly affects us. But we often forget to tend to our own needs. We watch them suffer and forget that our emotional health takes a toll. You are also going through a difficult time and have every right to seek out support for your emotional wellness and mental health. You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself first.
Everyone Has the Right to Seek Out Support
If your friend, family member, or partner is refusing to get professional help to improve their situation or wellbeing, that doesn’t mean you have to. Even if you don’t have a mental illness, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to get help to feel better. It can be incredibly difficult to watch our loved ones suffer, and as I mentioned before, it affects your wellbeing. If you know someone who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, anxiety, depression, or any other issue, you can go to therapy to learn to better support them, improve your communication, improve your mental health, and learn how to find that balance between being supportive while caring for yourself.
It’s OK to Stop Trying to Help
Are you frustrated that your loved one isn’t getting professional help? Do you feel like throwing your hands up and walking away? Have you tried everything and nothing seems to be working? It can feel like an uphill battle trying to get your loved one to get the help they need. You’ve done everything you could think of to encourage them to feel better or turn their life around, but nothing has worked. If you feel like giving up, that’s not a bad thing. Only that person can choose to get the help they need. You can’t make them get professional help. It’s OK to stop trying to fix them. Take a step back and focus on your needs for a moment.
The Stigma of Mental Health Care & Mental Illness
Mental health care and mental illness stigma are unfortunately still a reality. A lot of people believe that seeing a therapist means you are “mentally insane” or “crazy.” Your loved one who is struggling may feel this way. Or they might feel that their problem isn’t severe enough for them to get help. It’s important to understand that mental health care isn’t always about fixing problems. As the old saying goes, prevention is the best medicine and the same applies to mental health care. It can be preventative and practiced every day. One way to encourage your loved one to get the help they need is to reflect on how you talk about mental illness. Does your language reduce or add to stigma? The way we talk about mental health, the language we use, and how we take care of our own mental health can influence how others feel about mental health care. Check out this blog post that offers tips on how to reduce stigma. When we learn to use positive language and change our own attitudes about mental illness and mental health care, it influences others around us to improve their own attitudes about it, encouraging them to get the support they need.
Parents of Children
If you are the parent of a minor, you have every right to bring your child to therapy, even if they protest. A lot of parents worry that their child will be mad at them, or that they are sending the wrong message to their child by sending them to therapy. But therapy is a good thing! As I mentioned above, going to therapy doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. Just like going to the dentist twice a year, you can go to therapy regularly to maintain mental health. Going to therapy yourself and bringing your child to therapy reduces the stigma around mental illness and mental health care. It sends the message that it is a good thing to address mental health concerns and take care of your emotional well being. If your child is having a problem, it’s important to address the issue early on, rather than letting it linger or get worse.
How Therapy Can Help You Both
If your loved one isn’t getting the help they need – an adult child, partner, parent, or friend – it can be incredibly difficult to see them suffer and not get help. You don’t have to wait for them to go to therapy to start feeling better. If you go to therapy, it can help you weather that storm and get the support you need to cope with their pain that contributes to your own pain.
BURNOUT is real. I’ve seen so many times that a partner, parent, or friend throws their hands up and gives up. They walk away and are no longer in “problem solving mode”, but their emotional wellness hasn’t improved either.
When you take care of yourself, you’re better equipped to take care of others. While you can’t snap your fingers and magically make all of their problems go away, you will increase your capacity and emotional bandwidth to support them when they need it most. I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to. If you live in Florida or New York, I offer therapy online via a secure video platform. Contact me today and get the support YOU need.