All you want for your loved ones are happy, productive and satisfying lives. Your support matters greatly to all your family and friends, but what happens when someone you know and love is facing mental illness or addiction? Your love for him or her is not diminished, but the ways you show you care may change. And because you care about their well-being, you care that he or she seeks and finds the help they deserve. Supporting treatment is one of the most helpful things you can do to support sobriety and mental wellness. Read on for six of the most important ways to help a loved one through addiction and mental health treatment.
1. Support the treatment
Your relationship with your loved one means that they likely trust you, and value the relationship. Applaud them for seeking treatment and remaining open with you. Thank him or her for being honest about their struggles and their need for mental health and/or addiction treatment. Having a loved one struggling with addiction or mental illness may be shocking or scary news. It’s important to be honest about your reaction, while at the same time making sure your loved one understands that you strongly support their desire to receive treatment.
2. Lend your ear
Make time strictly to listen. Your loved one has a million and one things to process as he or she seeks sobriety and mental health stability. Let your friend or family member know that you are there to be a judgement-free listener. Expressing your support and then sitting back to listen opens the doors to an honest and sympathetic conversation. Become comfortable with listening more than you speak and embracing the difficult conversations. It’s completely normal to feel initially uncomfortable when a loved one confides in you, especially when it concerns specific substance use details. Remember, this is behavior that you are both uncomfortable with and want to change.
3. Recognize the signs
Gaining insight into your loved one’s struggles can be a great benefit when the waters are rough. With mental illness and addiction comes a roller coaster of emotions, experiences and progress. Sometimes, your friend, family member or peer may be at a low point, reaching out for more intense intervention. Learn to tell the difference between a venting session and a cry for help. It’s helpful to familiarize yourself with the signs of suicide and self-harm, or take part in family support services to learn when and how to intervene, and when to seek further assistance.
4. Invest your time
One of the best things you can do right now to offer your support is to give your time. Spending time with a loved one who is struggling does not have to be complicated. Go grocery shopping with your friend or watch a movie together, take your kid to a new park or make her favorite dinner, write your brother a letter sharing what you love about him. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or thought to show someone you care. The time you spend will have a tremendous impact on your friend when it’s done with love.
5. Accept setbacks
Sobriety is no walk in the park. Recovery from addiction or mental illness will never be a straight line, and setbacks will occur. There may be a relapse, a panic attack, a hospitalization or a depressive episode. Thankfully, your loved one is in treatment and sometimes things get worse before they get better. Work on forgiving your friend and talking about what happened. Having a mutually open conversation will help you both to move forward and establish that despite setbacks, you’re there for your friend, family member or peer.
6. Celebrate victories
Keeping up with your loved one’s treatment plan is an excellent opportunity to both offer encouragement and celebrate successes. Consider a scheduled check-in or ask your friend to notify you when they’ve accomplished a step towards sobriety or mental health improvement. Talk about what is motivating to your loved one and incorporate his or her favorite things into your next interaction. Plan an ice cream date for each month of sobriety, or host a success party with their support team, anything to let your loved one know that you want to celebrate successes right alongside them.
And don’t forget about yourself
You can only give what you have. Before you can be the advocate that your loved one needs, make sure that you’re in a place mentally and emotionally to be able to freely offer support. If supporting your friend becomes overwhelming or burdensome, reach out to a mental health professional through Pyramid Walden. Call (301) 997-1300, or learn even more about our mental health and addiction treatment programs today.
No one can handle mental illness or addiction alone. Pyramid Walden offers support groups as well as education for family and friends of those struggling with addiction or mental illness. There are also family support services available, including family counseling and resource materials. If it is your child who is struggling with mental health or addiction, there are additional evidence-based services and materials available that are more suited to supporting youth.
These tips are by no means an exhaustive list of the ways to show you care. Be creative and collaborate with family and friends for ways to show your devotion to empowering loved ones. Joining a support group or speaking with people who have similar experiences in supporting someone through addiction and mental health recovery can give you hope for the journey ahead.