Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Kate McLaughlin: 13 Ways You Can Support a Loved One with Mental Illness

Thanks to James Bishop of for finding this helpful post by mental health advocate Kate McLaughlin on ways you can support a loved one with a mental illness. To visit her insightful blog, click here.


1. Accept your feelings.


You may find yourself denying the warning signs, worrying what other people will think due to stigma, or wondering what caused your loved one to become ill. Accept that these feelings are normal and common among others in your situation.

2. Educate yourself.

Learn about the diagnosis, symptoms and available treatments. Local Mental Health America affiliates, public libraries and the Internet are all good resources.

3. Be compassionate.

Recognize that your family member or friend may feel scared and confused after receiving a diagnosis. Although some people are relieved to get diagnosed and actively seek treatment, it may feel devastating to others.

4. Motivate.


Encourage your loved one to learn about what treatments and services will promote recovery. Recognize that finding the right treatment or services can take time, and can involve a process of trial and error.

5. Practice “active listening.”

Listen to your family member or friend and express your understanding back to them. Acknowledge the feelings he or she is experiencing and don’t discount them, even if you believe them to be symptoms of the illness.

6. Learn how to cope with unusual behavior.

Certain behaviors people with mental illnesses may exhibit can be disruptive- especially in public-and difficult to accept. The next time you and your loved one visit his or her mental health professional, discuss these behaviors together and develop a strategy for coping.


7. Understand the challenges of medication.

Although treatments have improved tremendously in the past decade, they can also lead to side effects that can make your family member or friend want to stop taking the medicine. Encourage your loved one to speak immediately to his or her health care provider about any problems related to medications.

8. Understand that it’s not just about medication.

Recovery from mental illness isn’t only a matter of “just staying on your medications.” Self-esteem, social support and a feeling of contributing to society are also essential elements of recovery and should be supported.

9. Offer practical help.


Offer to drive or accompany your family member or friend to medical and other appointments. And, if he or she wants you to, discuss the treatment, side effects or other issues with the doctor and treatment team.

10. Give respect.

Always respect the individual’s need for and right to privacy. People with mental illnesses have the same right to be treated with dignity and respect as anyone else.

11. Establish a support network.

Seek out your own support from family and friends. Self-help and support groups also provide an opportunity to talk with other people who are experiencing the same types of issues you are. They can listen and offer valuable advice.

12. Take time out.


Schedule time for yourself to help you keep things in perspective. Making sure you pursue your own interests will help you have more patience and compassion toward your loved one. You can only help others when you are physically and emotionally healthy yourself. Also, make sure any other family members aren’t feeling ignored, and set aside quality time to spend together.

13. Maintain hope.

There is hope for recovery, and with treatment, many people who have mental illnesses return to productive and fulfilling lives.

To visit Kate’s blog, click here.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.


To subscribe to “Beyond Blue” click here.


  • Iva

    he is in need of professional help but cannot afford it. What can he do?

  • Your Name

    have a family member that has been struggling for years, let them know they are supported. It is an illness like any other cronic illness, this what people dont acknowledge, even insurance companies wont acknowledge or accept them

  • poch

    This is the very topic I needed to share for a very long time.
    I self-study psychology much and more and more, I see that many persons near me have psy problems which of course affects me.
    One most irritating case is that of a brother of mine.
    His way of getting attention when he isn’t drunk isn’t by speaking- he grunts or coughs every time he’s near me.
    My dilemma is, if I confront him about that, it would seem I’m telling him to see a psychiatrist.
    What would you do in my place?

  • Rosalinda

    My son found help through the city under a program called CARELINK.
    and the Center for Health Care Services. The center provided the medications in the beginning and then when Carelink took over, he pays $10 for his meds. We live in San Antonio TX. You can check with a Veteran’s center and perhaps they can direct you, if your family member has not been in the military, where to go who to call. If he has been in the Military, make sure he is registered at a VA to see what benefits your family member has. My son finally got well enough to go to the VA and register and found that he has all benefits except dental. YOU have to TRY TRY TRY – I Did – and my son is 36 years old. He is now working part time which is more than he was doing. God bless you and show you the way.

  • Rosalinda

    what is a URL

  • Lisa Chambers

    My brother is an alcoholic. I’m not sure if he is an alcoholic because he was not able to cope being different or he is an alcoholic
    and different but he is 50 years old. We have tried to talk to him
    but he doesn’t think he has a problem. He is homeless but this is
    because he chooses to be. He had a mobile home a couple of times but doesn’t pay bills so he ends up losing everything. He may get a job for a couple of days but mostly he just works odd jobs. Anymore no
    one would hire him because of his terrible work history and appearance/aroma. It was never his fault though that he lost all of his past jobs. He’s also a person that collects things and doesn’t part with anything. We (his family) feel guilty because we don’t do more but how can you help someone who does’t want help or doesn’t think he needs help. He is pitiful and it is heartbreaking.

  • Your Name

    My mother has suffered from various diagnosis of mental illness and chemical imbalances,such as bi-polor disorder, agorophobia, and manic episodes, coupled with paranoia and an addiction to prescription meds.
    Dealing with a parent with mental illness can be very challenging. Especially when it is coupled with a “tablespoon” of manipulation. Please take the time to step away from the situation occassionally to decompress to ensure you remain focused and healthy for you and your own children. We often experience the disease right along with the other person because we are who they turn to for comfort when they experience manic episodes. These episodes can be just as draining on the family members as the affected person.
    Stress can cause your immune system to be compromised. Illnesses that lie dormant in your body can easily surface when your immune system is unable to fight back. Please remember to take care of your health FIRST! This means sometimes you will have to return phone calls much later (4-5 minutes apart is too much) and take time to spend with your immediate family to ensure your spouse and children are not neglected, epecially when you know the illness is long term. I hope this helps…Thanks

  • Vivian Eisenecher

    I love the picture! I’m taking courses to become a mental health advocate and they teach us to refer to the mentally ill as mentally challenged. This is meant to help reduce the stigma…

  • Elaine Simmons

    I will be 61 years old on my next birthday. All my life I have delt with not quite fitting in, being full of energy and then not being able toget out of bed. I have gone through 40 some years of trial and error meds and therapy. My life has been always covered with a big blue cloud and I am sad all the time. The things that should make me happy barely get my attention. I finally have a diagnosis and it has been wonderful to finally have a name to what is wrong with me. The newer meds are pretty good and getting better all the time. The twenty or so years of off and on therapy has helped a lot and the support of my family has been tremendous. They don’t understand me or my problems but they forgive forget and help me to move on. Life as a bi-polar can be good.

  • Your Name

    I have boarderline personality and that is hard for me as my husband don’t understand. He says I live in a fantasy world and sometimes I wonder why god had to have this curse on me. I wish I could be a normal person and have friends I have no friends because of boarderline it makes it hard for me to relate to people and I have alot of conflits with others. If anyone knows how to help me or has any idea please post something.

  • Your Name

    My 32 year old son had a bad closed injury when he was 9 years old…. Sometimes I wonder if he has mental problems,or if his behavior is just part of his brain injury… I just don’t know what to do…
    Thank you for any help….

  • Your Name

    I have a brother who is mentally ill and has OCD. It is very hard to deal with him anymore. He is 55 and seems to worsen with time. He is never happy in any living situation and never seems to have enough. He is a slob and very clumsy, spilling everything he holds. He is stubborn and thinks he’s o.k. He likes to sleep all day and go out and stay gone all night, usually to the 24 hr. Walmart. He bums money and food from people all the time, as if he’s homeless. He loses everything from bikes to I.Ds. It’s at the embarrassing point to take him out anywhere. He dresses as if it’s winter year around. He carries wet wipes open in his pockets and his hand and his clothes are always wet. He floods the bathroom to wash up. He is very thin and doesn’t seem to gain weight easily. We would like to find a place for him for good, but there seems to not be enough help or facilities here in San Jose, Ca. If anyone has any answers to how we can help, instead of us feeling guilty, please do. Thanks.

  • Your Name

    I would be more than happy to be your friend ! I don’t have very many friends either ! I am bi-polar with anxiety, and i also have p.t.s.d. ! I feel like no one ever understands me either ! So if you would like to chat my e-mail is ! P.s. I am 26 and i like hip-hop and rap and r&b, i also love animals,games, cooking, and dancing !

  • joni

    Hi I’m 29yrs I have a mental illness. I take my meds and for most days I do OK. I’m also am a care taker for my mother who is a double amputee that affects her of her legs. When she lost her last leg a year ago, she went threw such a change like she images situation that come up that never happen .it really has affected my neighbor at one time the neighbor we wear so closes. Now I tried talking to her about going to the doctor and I’ve even talk with the doctor. until she wants help their nothing I can do I feel like I’m hitting a block of cement does anyone have any helpful suggestion ? please Emile me at

  • Your Name

    I have a 28 year old brother you was diagnosed 11 years ago with bipolar/schizophrenia. Living and coping with his disorder, (especially since both of our parents have recently passed),has been a tremendous challenge. Everyone in the extended family seems to “act” like they understand, yet, they truly do not. No one comes to visit him, not even our siblings. This takes a toll on my family because I seem to be the only one who takes interest and compassion on his part. Usually it was my father and I who would take care of him, now it is just me. It is almost as if everone would rather just wash their hands of him. He is very much a Christian, and although he doesn’t understand how God could give him such an awfully mentally painful disorder, he still has faith that God loves him. He also loves his family very much and doesn’t understand how no one has time for him. Please pray for my brother…..his name is Shannon. He needs all of the support you could possibly send him spiritually. Thank You ALL!!!!

  • Your Name

    I am a 40 year old female. I was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder I. I also suffered from alchol and drug addiction for the biggest part of my life. I can say now that I am in RECOVERY for my mental illness as well as my substance abuse illness. I have a job I work at 40 hours a week and attend AA meetings on a regular basis and take my medication as prescribed. So I just want to let people know we can recover and go on to live very normal lives. We are no different than somebody that has been diagnosed with diabetes. As long as we take our medication and take care of ourselves, we can live as “normal” as anybody else can.

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