When a friend or family member develops a mental health condition, it's important to know that you're not alone. Family members and caregivers often play a large role in helping and supporting the millions of people in the U.S. who experience mental health conditions each year. Many family members and caregivers experience the same thoughts and questions you might be having now.
You may be trying to help a family member who doesn't have access to care or doesn't want help. Or you may want to learn how to support and encourage someone who has been hospitalized or experienced a similar mental health crisis.
We realize that the challenges of mental illness do not only affect an individual's family members but also friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers and others in the community. Here we use the terms family member and caregiver interchangeably to refer to someone giving emotional, financial or practical support to a person with a mental health condition. Whether you're providing a lot of assistance or very little, the information here can help you better understand the issues that you might face.
Supporting Your Family Member
Across the country, thousands of trained NAMI volunteers bring peer-led programs to a wide variety of community settings, from churches to schools to NAMI Affiliates. With the unique understanding of people with lived experience, these programs and support groups provide outstanding free education, skills training and support.
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Taking Care of Yourself
To be able to care for the people you love, you must first take care of yourself. It’s like the advice we’re given on airplanes: put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else with theirs. Taking care of yourself is a valid goal on its own, and it helps you support the people you love.
No one wants to worry about the possibility of a crisis, but they do happen. That doesn't mean you have to feel powerless. Many healthcare providers require patients to create a crisis plan, and may suggest that it be shared with friends and family. Ask your loved one if he has developed a plan.
If your family member struggles with suicidal ideation day-to-day, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through.
A Recovery Action Plan can also be very helpful for your loved one to plan his overall care, and how to avoid a crisis. If he will not work with you on a plan, you can make one on your own.
The thought of a family member, a friend or someone else you care about going missing can be terrifying. You don’t know where they are, if they’re hurt or if they need help. When this person lives with a mental health condition, the situation may be even more serious.
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