Do you have a friend, family member or loved one who suffers from a mental illness or handicap? Do you often find yourself in situations where you do not know what to do or cannot find the appropriate words to make the situation better?

If you’ve answered yes to those questions, don’t feel bad. We all know that supporting someone who suffers from mental illness can be very challenging. It can be difficult to come to terms with the illness, however remember that your actions and attitude towards your loved one may play a huge role in their well being.

Here are a few tips and suggestions which may assist with providing help and support for your loved one(s) who suffers from mental illness.

1. Educate Yourself

Before you can support and care for your loved one, you have to familiarise yourself with the illness. It is important to educate yourself about your loved one’s illness so that you can effectively care for him/her and know what to expect.

2. Assist with Medical Needs

Encourage your loved one to take his/her treatments in a timely manner everyday. Encourage him/her to tell you or write down which treatments gives positive and negative side effects. Talk to the professional medical team about these side effects if he/she cannot do so her/himself.

3. Talk About Things

Encourage your loved ones to talk about how they are feeling. Make the conversations open and easy for them. Listen carefully and engage in conversation.By doing this, you are showing your loved one that you care about them and their well being.

4. Offer Practical Support

Help them with chores around the house. Cook for them once or twice week. Offer to go for walks or to join them at the gym.

5. Create a Support System

Keep a list of emergency contact numbers for GPs, hospitals, therapists, family members and friends close by. Ensure that your loved one knows that he/she has a safety net of people who care about his/her well being.

Let your loved one know that he/she can rely on you and that he/she is not going through the battle alone.

Health care professionals can help you develop a plan that covers every aspect of your loved one’s life. The plan should support the needs of the individual, as well as include strategies for the family. For example, the plan may include medications and therapy for the individual, while providing information for gaining financial or housing assistance for the family. Behaviour management programmes, family therapy, and other specialised classes may also be incorporated.

Being a caregiver to someone with mental health issues is never easy, which is why it is crucial for you to put the right mechanisms in place to help you manage. Be sure to take time out for yourself to recharge your body and mind.

5.Find a Support Group

Participating in a support group can equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to handle various illnesses. Talking to individuals who are in the same situation allows you to gain an understanding of what to expect, as well as pick up tips for coping. In addition, the simple act of sharing with people who can empathise with you is an excellent way to vent your concerns in a safe and secure environment. If you have the right support system in place, you’ll be better able to help your friend or relative.

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