Nine Things Not To Do

Nine Things Not To Do
 
 
Asking the right question at the wrong time. For example, asking your loved one who is living with a mental illness if they took their medications may be helpful at times, but that same question can be seen as condescending when your loved one is trying to express their point of view or emotions about a situation that they feel passionate about.
 
Blaming the person for their symptoms. The symptoms of mental illnesses depending on the disease can manifest in several ways. Ways that can lead to frustration among family members who don’t understand that even with medications and support some symptoms will still be present. Some of these symptoms are listed below:
 
*Cognitive Impairments – For some people impairments in cognition are part of their illness. While the level of impairment will vary with the illness cognitive impairments can be seen in a persons’ inability to think clearly, to pay attention, and to organize or to problem solve quickly (https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/cogdys_manual/cogdyshndbk.pdf). As a result, it may seem that when you are asking your loved one who is living with a severe mental illness to do something or try to have a conversation that they are not following or understanding you. However, be patient, because of the cognitive impairments associated with their illness it may take them a little longer to express themselves.
*Acceptance of Diagnosis/Medications – Sometimes your loved one may not want to take their medications. Well just because a person does not want to take their medications or accept their diagnosis does not mean that they are stubborn or unmotivated. Instead, it could be a symptom called *Anosognosia. What is this? It is the symptom that manifests in a persons’ inability to recognize their symptoms or the need to take medications. According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% with bipolar disorder have symptoms of Anosognosia ( https://www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org/key-issues/anosognosia). Also, think about yourself, would you readily accept having to take medications for the rest of your life? Some people living with a mental illness have to take three and four pills a day, and that is not always easy.
*Negative Symptoms. One of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia is what, clinicians call a negative symptom. Negative symptoms include a reduction in emotions and drive. The person appears apathetic, displays little interest in events or engaging with other people, and they may not talk much (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479085). Family members may feel as if they did something wrong or that their loved one is behaving this way on purpose.
 
Assuming mental illness is the same thing as a lack of intelligence. Treating loved ones who are diagnosed with a mental illness like they are stupid or like they are a child is disrespectful. Listen it’s understandable that you would be concerned and your support is needed and welcomed. However, your level of involvement should vary depending on the needs of your loved one.
 
Assuming that you know what it is like to live with symptoms of mental illness. Don’t assume that you know what is helpful ask questions. Don’t assume that you are an expert on living with a mental illness or that everyone is the same.
 
Giving bad advice about medications or hospital stays. Don’t’ discourage the use of medications or hospital visits when needed. Medications, prayer, and other people can all be helpful depending on the need of the person. So don’t dismiss these strategies.
 
Underestimate the impact of the illness. Living with a mental illness is difficult. Depending on the illness the symptoms can be episodic or continual. So even when you or your loved one is doing “well” don’t get complacent. Everyone to include family members should have a relapse plan and prepare for changes. Being diagnosed with a mental illness changes your life, it can impact how well you do in school, work and or get along with people. Changes or relapse if that occurs is not the end of the world, just like periodic fluctuations in the life of a person with Diabetes changes in symptoms are to be expected.
                                                                                                                                                                                Trying to dictate the pace. People move at different paces so please be patient. For example, two people can be diagnosed with schizophrenia but function differently. Depending on what age a person was when they first received their diagnosis, the medications and support they received, their journey of recovery will be different.
                                                                                                                                                                          Assuming that because people don’t’ talk about mental illness in the same way that you do that they are “backward” or “ignorant.” It’s not that people don’t care sometimes they have more pressing things to focus their efforts upon on. According to Maslow if people are focused on meeting their basic needs, it’s hard for them to focus on the higher ones. If I have to worry about how I am going to eat, where I am going to live or my child who is in prison, for example then I may not be as focused on mental health.
                                                                                                                                                                                       Assuming that the church does not talk about mental illness. Now it may be true that in the church you are connected with may not be talking about it, but many people care and are talking.  (IGBATT.COM ALL Rights Reserved 2019)