Maintaining a Healthy Relationship With a Loved One Who Has a Mental Health Condition
If you are close to someone with a mental health condition, you're probably wondering how to best help them. Maintaining a good relationship with them is one way. But this may feel tough at times, especially when the illness makes it harder for your loved one to manage their emotions and behaviors. Here are some things that you can do to help keep your relationship healthy.
- Learn about the condition.
Understanding the condition can help you strengthen your relationship. It can help you let go of any blame or false beliefs you might have about the condition. One resource you could try is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website. Go to nami.org/About-Mental-Illness to learn more.
- Separate your loved one from the condition.
Try not to focus too much on the illness. Instead, focus on the things you love and enjoy about the person.
- Make it safe for your loved one to talk to you.
- Practice listening. Ask to hear their point of view. Listen closely to what they say. It's often better not to offer your opinion or advice unless asked. When you do, be thoughtful about your loved one's feelings.
- Manage how you react. For example, stay calm and try to avoid arguing. If you're feeling too emotional, take some time alone before talking.
- Try to empathize with them. You may not always agree with them. But you might let them know that you care about how they feel.
- Offer to help when you can.
Ask your loved one how you can be most helpful. If you can, talk to your loved one's doctor or counselor about how you can help. Try not to assume you know what your loved one needs.
- Have fun together.
Do something you both enjoy. You could do things like watch a movie, play a game, or spend time outdoors.
- Build a support system.
Make sure you both have others you can talk to and lean on. This could be supportive family, close friends, a faith leader, or a mental health support group.
- Care for yourself.
Being in a relationship with someone who has a mental health condition can be very hard and tiring at times. Caring for your physical and emotional health can help.
- Find a counselor for yourself. Counseling can give you tools to help manage stress. You also can learn how to build healthy boundaries with your loved one. You can ask your doctor for a referral.
- Get enough sleep, eat a variety of healthy foods, and get regular exercise.
- Practice healthy coping skills, like meditation or deep breathing.
- Take time to yourself to recharge. You could take a hot bath, go for a walk, or spend time with friends.
If it's an emergency or if your loved one is in a crisis, get help right away. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health
Lesley Ryan MD - Family Medicine