Does someone you love suffer from mental illness? Part two of this four part series on how mental illness can affect relationships will show how you can best support your loved one. If you missed part one, read it here.
1. Know your loved one’s diagnosis. Research, know the symptoms, the risks and prognosis, know the medications, dosages and potential side effects, know the warning signs of worsening symptoms, and know who to contact in case of an emergency (psychiatrist, doctor, etc.). It’s critically important to do your homework.
2. Talk to your partner (or loved one) about getting permission to discuss health care issues with his or her health care providers. HIPAA Privacy Rules strictly govern who has access to health information, and if your loved one does not give his or her HCPs permission in writing, they may not discuss that information with you. However, even if you do not have that permission, you may still talk to the health care providers: tell them the symptoms you see and the concerns you have. They may not be able to discuss them with you, but they can listen to you and take your concerns into consideration.
3. Be your partner or loved one’s advocate. They may resist their diagnosis or their medications due to the stigma of mental illness or because of the way their medications make them feel. They may fight against a doctor or particular therapist. Help them find one who better meets their needs, and help them fight to get their needs met. Locate support groups for them specifically geared towards their particular needs.
Sources: DBSA: Helping Someone with a Mood Disorder; WebMD: Supporting a Family Member or Friend.
Being in a relationship of any kind with someone suffering from mental illness can be a painful, life-altering experience. There may be abuse involved or there may not be. There can be the constant fear that they will be hurt or incarcerated. There may addiction issues that often come from self-medication. And there can be other worries. Know that you are not alone, not by a long shot. And there is help.
If you are in the St. Louis area, NAMI has a St. Louis support group for families. If you are in an emergency situation, they also offer crisis lines. Please go to the main NAMI site if you need support and live outside the St. Louis regional area.
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Have you loved someone with a mental illness? I have. My mother suffered from bipolar disorder, depersonalization disorder, and was a hoarder. Feel free to comment below with your own experiences or email me at [email protected]