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How to accept that you have a mental illness

Develop self-awareness with lessons from the research

Posted February 27, 2017

How to accept that you have a mental illness

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery,” Dumbledore, the headmaster wizard once said in the Harry Potter series. With this quote, author J.K. Rowling tapped into a core truth in the acceptance of a mental health problem… acceptance is key to managing mental health challenges.

My research has found that acceptance is not a simple outcome that is either there or not there. Instead, acceptance is a dynamic process that involves several factors that develop over time. This process requires moving from a passive state of denial to an active position of agency.

How is it done? Here are some central lessons based on research on acceptance.

1. Develop an awareness of the mental health problem and beliefs that support it. The process of acceptance of a mental health problem includes a cognitive piece. Insight is needed to understand that a mental health problem is taking place. Symptoms can get in the way of thinking clearly about what is happening, and they could be lessened through treatment. Or if denial is a problem, it is important to understand what beliefs might add to it. That you can’t live a life of hope and meaning in the face a mental health problem? That you won’t be able to pursue your dreams or feel accepted by others? These beliefs can be challenged in order to better recognize the problem.

2. Create a positive sense of self in the face of a mental health problem. Research has shown that acceptance is also a process of identity development that involves moving past stigma. Why would you accept a mental health problem if you feel society might shun you for having one? Stigma needs to be disputed to allow for a new sense of self to emerge. You can still be a fantastic worker, parent, friend, or community member even with a mental health problem. A mental health problem doesn’t need to define a person, or become central to your identity. However, it does need to be integrated as a part of who you are.

3. Engage in activities that support acceptance. There is also a behavioral aspect to this process. Engaging in certain activities can reflect and reinforce acceptance of a mental health problem. These might be treatment-oriented activities, like taking medication or attending therapy. You might also keep an active schedule and build in positive activities to look forward to during the week. A range of behaviors can keep the mental health problem from taking over and make accepting the problem easier.

4. Focus on relationships that promote acceptance. Supportive relationships are particularly helpful to accepting a mental health problem. Some people may not accept the mental health problem because of their own stigmatizing beliefs. Some people might also benefit from ignoring the problem, or simply be unprepared to accept it. On the other hand, many friends, providers, family members, and others might recognize the presence of a mental health problem and support the management of it. They might offer non-judgmental listening, company to appointments, or general encouragement. Acceptance can be supported by relationships with people who acknowledge the mental health problem.

5. Pursue emotional experiences that boost acceptance. Research shows that people also describe the process of acceptance as an emotional experience. This might involve making room for grief and pain and moving past shame. On a positive side, acceptance can also involve sustaining a sense of happiness and hope. The acceptance process can certainly involve some work, but it can also be a joyful experience that leads to a greater sense of peace.

These tips include a number of aspects of acceptance that take place within the individual. However, acceptance shouldn’t be seen as the sole responsibility of the person, but a process that includes the effort of the general public to overcome stigma and foster mental wellness in our communities. Acceptance is a process that can’t and shouldn’t be done alone.

Here’s what’s happening on the HealthyPlace site this week:

The Difficulty Of Accepting You Have a Mental Illness

No one I know is happy about receiving a depression diagnosis, or diagnosis of bipolar disorder, OCD or schizophrenia, or any of the other mental illnesses spelled out in the DSM IV. In fact, the way we protect ourselves, our mind, is to deny it. “It just can’t be true. The doctor got it all wrong.”

What got me thinking about this is today’s post from Holly Gray, author of the Dissociative Living blog. Holly discusses the difficulty of accepting her Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis. DID is closely linked to childhood abuse and Holly couldn’t remember being abused. So “how could I have DID?”

The road to acceptance of a mental illness is not easy. Bipolar Vida blogger, Cristina Fender, visited three psychiatrists before accepting her bipolar diagnosis. “It shattered the small amount of self-esteem I had left,” she says.

Does Acceptance Matter and Is There Anything That Will Help?

Acceptance does matter. As Natasha Tracy says in her Breaking Bipolar blog post, Denying Bipolar, “learning that you have a debilitating lifetime illness is a nasty pill to swallow and a period of grieving, including denial, is normal and expected. This denial has to go away; however, for us to get better.”

But what if you have trouble accepting your diagnosis? HealthyPlace Medical Director, Dr. Harry Croft, says psychotherapy addresses the issue of acceptance of a mental illness. “Many people do not take the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, for example, seriously. They may take prescribed medication for a while and then go off, precipitating a relapse or worse.” According to Dr. Croft, psychotherapy helps a person accept that they have an illness, that it’s likely to be recurrent, and that they need to learn to manage it both behaviorally and medically.

Some people are so afraid of being diagnosed with a mental illness, they haven’t even gone to the doctor yet. If you or a loved one are concerned about psychological symptoms, take one of our free online psychological tests. Print out the results and share them with your doctor. The results are not a diagnosis. They are meant to be a starting point in discussing your concerns with your doctor.

Follow-up on Ketamine for Treatment of Bipolar Depression

In last week’s newsletter, we reported on Ketamine, an anesthetic that when given to patients with treatment-resistant bipolar depression significantly relieved their depression symptoms in 40 minutes. Shortly thereafter, Stephanie called our “Share Your Mental Health Experiences” line to talk about her son’s experience with Ketamine. He, too, was part of a clinical study. Listen to her comments on Ketamine for treatment of bipolar depression.

Share Your Mental Health Experiences

Share your thoughts/experiences on any mental health subject, or respond to other people’s audio posts, by calling our toll-free number ( 1-888-883-8045 ).

You can listen to what other people are saying by clicking on the gray title bars inside the widgets located on the “Sharing Your Mental Health Experiences” homepage, the HealthyPlace homepage, and the HealthyPlace Support Network homepage.

If you have any questions, write us at: info AT healthyplace.com

“Navigating Schizophrenia and Living A Better Life” On HealthyPlace TV

Despite being struck by Schizophrenia at age 25, psychologist and mental health advocate, Dr. Fred Frese, went on to live a better and successful life. How he did it and his life nearly 45 years later – on this week’s HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show.

Watch the schizophrenia video interview with our guest, Dr. Fred Frese, currently featured on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show website until next Wednesday; on-demand after that.

    (TV Show blog)

Coming in August on the HealthyPlace Mental Health TV Show

  • Irritable Male Syndrome: Why Some Mid-Life Men Turn Mean
  • How to Cope with Bullies in the Workplace

If you would like to be a guest on the show or share your personal story in writing or via video, please write us at: producer AT healthyplace.com

From HealthyPlace Mental Health Blogs

Your comments and observations are welcomed.

Feel free to share your thoughts and comments at the bottom of any blog post. And visit the mental health blogs homepage for the latest posts.

Dysfunction doesn’t run, it gallops through my family tree! Growing up in a home with parents who were depressed, anxious and with various other emotional problems, tends to create children with the same issues. I am a testament to just that. I have never felt normal. I was always very reserved, withdrawn, cried easily and often I just wanted to sleep. I had few friends. I still shy away from people.

Accepting You Have A Mental Illness Takes Time, Work

How to accept that you have a mental illness

Now in my fifties, those negative influences have left their indelible mark in my brain and I have had to fight for peace of mind because it was a virtue that was as elusive as a butterfly. A possession not long held. I am diagnosed with dysthymia, anxiety disorders and I am prone to bouts of depression with paranoia. I have accepted my condition and have sought help. I have a counselor and doctor who treats my symptoms. I go to groups now where I share how I feel and try to encourage others who feel as if their lives have been turned upside down with an invisible illness.

It is difficult to explain to people that have not had similar problems, the difficulties one encounters when your brain isn’t well. People look at me and say things like, “You don’t look crazy. You look just fine to me!” They don’t know that inside I may be on the verge of hysteria. I may be trying as hard as I can to follow a discussion, yet disturbing ideas keep intruding and distracting me. Some expect to find a middle-aged woman who babbles and drools in a corner of an institution somewhere. That is STIGMA. Unless someone sees me act out inappropriately, they don’t believe me. That hurts!

Separating Your Identity From The Mental Illness

My condition is a part of my life, yet I am not the mental illness. I have an identity all my own. Although I don’t go around with a badge on my shirt that tells everyone what my diagnosis is, there are times when I might disclose that I have a mental health condition and explain how I may react when I am triggered. I have decided that I will not be ashamed of the faulty wiring in my brain. I am still intelligent, I am in recovery and I am trying to get to a place where I can advocate for others.

Until we can educate one another about mental illness and show compassion toward those that suffer with it, ignorance will endure and stigma along with it. It’s time for understanding and acceptance of an illness that cannot always be seen with the human eye.

This article was written by:

Yelena Kersha is a full-time student at the College of Central Florida majoring in Psychology. She writes two blogs. Led to Truth, which deals with spiritual, sexual and emotional abuse and The Quieted Mind in which she shares her views on mental illness through the eyes of one who lives with it. She lives with her soul-mate and children in Central Florida. You can also connect with Yelena on Twitter.

helps pay for these outpatient mental health services:

  • One depression screening per year. The screening must be done in a primary care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can provide follow-up treatment and referrals.
  • Individual and group psychotherapy with doctors or certain other licensed professionals allowed by the state where you get the services.
  • Family counseling, if the main purpose is to help with your treatment.
  • Testing to find out if you’re getting the services you need and if your current treatment is helping you.
  • Psychiatric evaluation.
  • Medication management.
  • Certain prescription drugs that aren’t usually “self administered” (drugs you would normally take on your own), like some injections.
  • Diagnostic tests. .
  • A one-time “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit. This visit includes a review of your possible risk factors for depression.
  • A yearly “Wellness” visit. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider about changes in your mental health. They can evaluate your changes year to year.

Part B also covers outpatient mental health services for treatment of inappropriate alcohol and drug use.

  • You pay nothing for your yearly depression screening if your doctor or health care provider accepts assignment.
  • You pay 20% of the Medicare-Approved Amount for visits to your doctor or other health care provider to diagnose or treat your condition. The Part B deductible [glossary] applies.
  • If you get your services in a hospital outpatient clinic or hospital outpatient department, you may have to pay an additional copayment or coinsurance amount to the hospital.

To find out how much your test, item, or service will cost, talk to your doctor or health care provider. The specific amount you’ll owe may depend on several things, like:

  • Other insurance you may have
  • How much your doctor charges
  • Whether your doctor accepts assignment
  • The type of facility
  • Where you get your test, item, or service

Your doctor or other health care provider may recommend you get services more often than Medicare covers. Or, they may recommend services that Medicare doesn’t cover. If this happens, you may have to pay some or all of the costs. Ask questions so you understand why your doctor is recommending certain services and whether Medicare will pay for them.

Mental health services help with conditions like depression and anxiety. These visits are often called counseling or therapy.

Part B covers mental health services and visits with these types of health professionals:

  • Psychiatrist or other doctor
  • Clinical psychologist
  • Clinical social worker
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant

Medicare only covers the visits when they’re provided by a health care provider who accepts

Part B covers outpatient mental health services, including services that are usually provided outside a hospital, in these types of settings:

  • A doctor’s or other health care provider’s office
  • A hospital outpatient department
  • A community mental health center

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889). You can call and speak with a counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This article lists 15 signs someone is good for your mental health. Not going to lie, coming across such a person is like finding a unicorn. So, if you’ve got someone like this, make sure to cherish them!

How to accept that you have a mental illness

1. They accept you for the way you are

One of the crystal-clear signs someone is good for your mental health is that they ACCEPT you.

A person who is good for your mental health ACCEPTS you wholeheartedly.

They don’t try to change the way you are. They don’t try to ‘fix’ you to suit their preferences.

They may not agree with your views on some matters, but they accept that you can have different views without making a conflict out of it.

2. You don’t hide any parts of yourself with them

Have you been around someone who you can be completely relaxed around?

You’re free with them and they don’t judge/reject you when you are 100% yourself with them. That’s one of the sure-fire signs someone is good for your mental health.

If you feel like you have to walk over eggshells, put on a different face/attitude or feel stifled and awkward around someone, it’s going to be very messy for your mental health.

3. They respect your personal boundaries

One of the greatest signs someone is good for your mental health is that they don’t overstep your boundaries.

They don’t push you to break your personal boundaries by doing things such as asking something of you that goes against your principles, forcing you to sacrifice something important, making you do/say something you are don’t want to or are hesitant to do, disrespecting your time, manipulating your emotions or lying to you to get what they want.

If anyone in your life whether family, friend, partner, love interest, coworkers or acquaintance is doing the above things, they are violating your personal boundaries and are not good for your mental health.

4. They support your dreams

Someone who encourages you to go after goals that will make you successful and happy is good for your mental health. It’s important to be with someone who supports you for your mental health to flourish.

5. They encourage you to grow as a person

They want to see you improving and becoming a better person. They don’t want to see you stuck in the same place every year.

Many people may want to see you stuck in the same space without improvement. Heck, they even want to see you go down or move backwards in the path to success.

But someone who is good for your mental health roots for you when you want to do certain things that make you a better individual.

6. They have empathy towards you

They sympathize with you when you occasionally are in a low mood. Being around someone like this is important because it makes you feel like yourself – you don’t have to be perfect or walk on egg shells trying to cover up your true emotions. You also don’t need to be scared that they will abandon you because they understand and have empathy towards you.

7. They ask questions about yourself and listen genuinely

You feel seen, heard, understood and appreciated by this person. They care about you, ask you questions about yourself, how you feel and what you are going through. And it doesn’t stop there – they listen to what you are saying because they are genuinely concerned about you.

8. They take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally

Someone who is good for your mental health also tries to take care of themselves too. They know that everyone should put in effort for self-care to thrive in life.

Being around someone who does things to keep their physical, mental and emotional state healthy can influence you to do the same.

Also, a person who takes care of themselves understands when you want to take some time & space for your own self-care.

9. You feel safe and comfortable around them

Most of us put on different personas for various people that we meet. That’s because we’re not comfortable around them or we don’t know if we are safe with them.

But with someone who is good for your mental health, you feel free to be your true self without having to be repressed.

10. They are patient with you

Someone who is patient with you allows you to speak without unnecessary interruptions, express your emotions without judging and take time to make certain decisions.

They are patient enough to wait until an opinion is asked of them, then give suggestions to the matter without taking the lead in the situation.

You will find that such a person is also patient with your shortcomings and waits for you to recover when going through a tough time.

11. They let you know if you’re taking a wrong decision

Someone who is good for your mental health doesn’t always blindly agree with you all the time. They stop you from implementing bad ideas.

They know how to call you out when you are in the wrong or are about to take harmful decisions.

12. They communicate honestly with you

Communication is key in any relationship. A person good for your mental health communicates honestly with you.

Even when you get into a misunderstanding with each other, you resolve the issue by talking to each other in a way that makes both of you content and peaceful. There are also no secret lies between you.

13. You can be vulnerable around them and vice versa

You can be raw and open to the person without feeling awkward or guilty. This means you are totally free with them because you know they won’t mock, judge or reject you.

They are also free to express themselves around you in times when they are vulnerable.

14. They uplift and hype you up

Another one of the signs someone is good for your mental health is that they help you to see how valuable you are. They make you feel good!

They uplift you whenever you’re down and cheer for you when you’re winning. And it’s not fake love or toxic positivity either – they are sincerely happy for you and want you to succeed.

15. They admit their mistakes

Last but not least, for your mental health to be stable, you need to be able to be around someone who recognizes when they are at fault and apologizes/improves.

Not admitting mistakes or turning a blind eye and deaf ear when confronted with something wrong they did should be a deal breaker in choosing friends or partners.

That’s why one of the signs that someone is good for your mental health is that they are capable of acknowledging their mistakes. Someone who sees that they did something wrong will be able to rectify their mistake and make things better.

Please feel free to add more signs someone is good for your mental health in the comments section down below!

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Verywell / Evan Polenghi

If you wish to join the U.S. military, be aware that people with current mood disorders or a history of certain mental illnesses cannot serve. The U.S. Department of Defense has a directive which provides a detailed list of the mental health conditions that prevent a person from being in the armed services.  

Disqualifying Mental Health Conditions

According to the Department of Defense, you’re disqualified from serving in the U.S. military if you have a current diagnosis or a history of most mental disorders. The presence of any disorder with psychotic features, such as schizophrenia or a delusional disorder, does not allow one to serve.

You’re also disqualified if you have bipolar disorder or affective psychoses. For depressive disorders (for example, major depressive disorder), disqualification from the service occurs if a person had outpatient care that lasted for more than 12 months or any inpatient care. A person with a depressive disorder must be stable, without treatment or symptoms for a continuous 36 months, to be eligible to enlist.

For anxiety disorders (for example, panic disorder), a person cannot enter the armed services if they needed any inpatient care, or outpatient care for more than 12 months cumulatively. They must not have needed any treatment for their anxiety disorder in the past 36 months. Other disqualifying mental health conditions include:

  • A history of obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • A history of or current dissociative, conversion, or factitious disorder, depersonalization, hypochondriasis, somatoform disorders, or pain disorder related to psychological factors or a somatoform disorder
  • A history of an adjustment disorder within the last six months, or recurrent episodes of adjustment disorder
  • A history of paraphilias like voyeurism or exhibitionism
  • A history of or current alcohol or drug abuse or dependence
  • A history of attempted suicide or suicidal behavior

Disturbances of conduct, impulse control disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, or other personality or behavior disorders characterized by frequent encounters with law enforcement agencies, and antisocial attitudes or behavior also warrant disqualification from service. Likewise, a person may be disqualified from enlisting if their personality, conduct, or behavior disorder is believed to be a serious interference in adjusting to the military.

Other causes for disqualification include (but not limited to) a history of anorexia or bulimia, a history of encopresis (soiling your underwear) after the age of 13, or a history of an expressive or receptive language delay. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be a reason for disqualification if one has received treatment with the last two years or it has been significantly present since age 14. Autism spectrum disorders are also a disqualification.

Effects on Service Members

While currently having mental health conditions or a history of a serious mental disorder technically prohibits military service, research data suggests that many are skirting the rules. A study published in 2014 found that 25% of non-deployed U.S. military members had some sort of mental disorder, including panic disorder, ADHD, or depression. Two-thirds of these had their conditions prior to enlisting.  

The study also found that more than 11% of U.S. military enlistees had more than one disorder. Interestingly, intermittent explosive disorder was one of the most common conditions found.  

How are people getting around the rules? It's not entirely clear, but people find ways to circumvent the regulations, most in the vein of, "Don't ask, don't tell."

The problem lies not in the disregard for the rules, but in the risk to the person who enlists. For instance, in the 2014 study, enlistees who had mental disorders prior to enlisting were more likely to have difficulty performing their job. In addition, the rules make it unlikely that someone who develops a mental health condition in the military will seek appropriate help.  

Rules for military pilots are even stricter than those for general armed forces enlistment.

A Word From Verywell

These rules are meant to protect those with the condition and others in the military. However, some advocates say the U.S. military should make more efforts to identify mental illness both in recruits and in established service members—not to kick them out, but to provide earlier treatment.

Such an effort could help foster needed assistance in an organization currently wracked with suicides, attempted suicides, and diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder. These service members need help, regardless of whether they joined with the mental condition or developed it while serving.  

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

With each new generation come new challenges or different versions of the same struggles that have affected teens for decades. Bullying, peer pressure, body shaming, negative self-perception — the list of teen issues goes on and on. As a parent, you might have your own list from when you were young, but you may be unsure if it fully equips you to help your teen through their own difficulties. Many of the challenges adolescents face involve mental health issues, some of which have the potential to lead to drug abuse as a coping mechanism. But how much do you know about these issues? Do you know the signs to look for or how to effectively help your teen?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 49.5% of all teens between the ages of 13 and 18 had any mental disorder with an estimated 22.2% with severe impairment. This includes mood, behavior, and anxiety disorders. Your teen is not alone in their struggles. You’re not alone either, and it’s important that you both always keep that in mind while exploring your treatment options.

By the Numbers: Teen Mental Illness

Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder affect thousands of teens across the country every year. These statistics point to their prevalence — and the need for compassionate counsel and care from loved ones.

  • Each year in America, 1 in 5 teens aged 13–18 experience a mental health condition.
  • LGBTQ individuals are twice as likely as others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Nearly 90% of people who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness.
  • Eating disorders can develop in children as young as 8 years of age. of all chronic mental illnesses begin by age 14.

Ways to Help Your Teen

  • Know the warning signs. It can be difficult to tell whether or not your teen has a mental disorder, but there are certain nonverbal cues and signs you can watch out for. The National Institute of Mental Health compiled these common warning signs of mental illness that you can be vigilant of. Some signals include meticulous or restrained eating (indicative of an eating disorder), oversleeping or exhaustion, extreme mood swings, and wearing long sleeves or pants or bandages (to cover up signs of self-harm).
  • Educate yourself about mental illnesses. Learning everything you can about mental illness is the first step in knowing how to help someone struggling. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers a free education program for parents of teens with mental illnesses, called NAMI Basics.
  • Talk openly about mental illness. This is the first strategy for most parents, and oftentimes it can be one of the most effective. If your teen is struggling with a mental health disorder, the worst thing you can do is to ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Talking openly and honestly to your teen about depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts reduces the stigma of silence around these issues and lets your child know that it’s OK to speak up about what they’re going through.
  • Have a conversation about drug abuse. Many teens choose to experiment with drugs and alcohol to escape the weight of a mental disorder. While your teen may never try dangerous substances, don’t assume that they won’t — instead, have a discussion about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. If you fear your teen is addicted, talking to them is even more important. Learning the difference between confrontation and conversation is crucial in knowing how to approach the situation.

“Are you a friend, relative or partner of a teen with mental illness? There are ways you can help that show you care. “

  • Be supportive, not enabling. When and if your teen opens up about their mental illness struggles, be patient, and above all, listen. Let your teen know that having a mental health issue doesn’t change how much you love them. It may be difficult, but try not to jump to conclusions or blame certain people, events or situations for what your child is experiencing. It can be all too easy to practice enabling behaviors that do more harm than good, such as offering to do homework or making excuses for their mental illness.
  • Don’t use dismissive or judgemental language. When talking to someone who’s struggling, it’s important to think about the way you talk. Platitudes like “Everything’s going to be OK” and “You’ll get over it” do nothing to help someone with a mental health disorder. Instead, ask questions like “How can I best support you right now?” Reassure your teen that they’re not the only one who deals with these issues and that you’re by their side through it all.
  • Consult your pediatrician or primary care doctor. Your teen’s doctor will be able to give you pointers on how to identify the presence of a mental illness and advice on how to proceed should your teen’s condition worsen. If your teen’s doctor does not provide a diagnosis or referral to another professional, it can be beneficial to seek a second opinion. It’s better to be cautious than let a mental illness fester.
  • Get a referral for a mental health specialist. Talk therapy with a licensed counselor can go a long way to help someone battling mental illness. Saying something like “It worries me to hear you talking like this; let’s talk to someone about it,” can be the key to broaching the topic of counseling with your teen. Your doctor or health insurance representative will be able to recommend therapy options that fit your budget and align with your child’s needs.

The Bottom Line on Teens and Mental Illness

Mental illness can often fuel eating disorders, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts. If you’re worried that your teen’s mental illness has led to substance abuse or an eating disorder, reach out to The Recovery Village. Our facilities provide comprehensive, confidential treatment for substance use, mental health, and eating disorders, so your teen can get back on track to wellness.

Available Helplines

Need immediate advice or a listening ear? Representatives on these hotlines are always available to take your call and offer advice.

When you confide in your parents or authority figures, you expect to have support when you tell them something major, like the state of your mental health. Though some parents show support and love to their children, too many ignore or criticize their children when they express what they are feeling.

Take Danielle Zavala, who wrote a post for NAMI Massachusetts about how she didn’t see a psychiatrist for her problems until she was 19:

“I started experiencing psychiatric symptoms when I was about 11. I felt depressed and I would have panic attacks. By the time I was 13 things were pretty serious and I was thinking about suicide every day. I was so afraid that I would do it that I decided to reach out and ask my parents for help. It was really hard for me to talk to them about it. I don’t think they really understood or if they did they didn’t want to believe it. They thought I was just experiencing typical adolescent mood swings and that I probably had a hormone imbalance. Rather than getting me psychiatric help we went to the gynecologist to talk to them about my hormones. I was put on birth control to get everything back in check. After a few months once it was clear the birth control did not cure my depression we went to the family doctor to talk to her about it. Once again it was very hard for me to talk about the things I was going through.”

Stories like Danielle’s are not uncommon. Children (and yes, adult children as well) may hear:

“You look fine to me.”

Parents may not know what to do when their children come to them with a problem unfamiliar to them, especially if they never experienced it themselves. But the longer a mental illness goes undetected, the worse it will get. Danielle urges parents to take their children’s concerns seriously:

“Mental health issues are real and can affect people at any age. The longer they are let go untreated the worse they usually get. Children that do not get help for their mental illness can end up having problems with school, with vocation, develop addictions and get in trouble with the law once they are older. The upside to all this is that the earlier someone is able get help for their mental illness, the easier it usually is to treat. If there is a young person in your life that you suspect has a mental health issue, or if they reach out for help, please take them seriously. If someone you know is seeking mental health help for their child please do not judge them as ‘bad parents that don’t know how to handle their spoiled kids.’ They should be commended for making sure their children are healthy in all areas of life.”

The first step is to sit down with you parents and explain the situation. Tell them you’d like for them not to put in their opinion until after you’ve finished expressing your concerns. They may still brush it off or not know what to say. Allow them some time to adjust and bring up the subject again later. Show them some resources that may be abe to answer their questions, such as pamphlets from mental health organizations or blog posts with similar stories. If your parents still do not accept your situation, know it isn’t your fault. Take care of yourself first if you’re able by reaching out to school counselors, local mental health organizations.

If you give up on them, they will give up on themselves.

How to accept that you have a mental illness

Nicole Sazegar
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How to accept that you have a mental illness

Supporting a friend or family member with a mental illness is never and will never be easy. There’s never a simple answer for approaching an issue this complicated.

Mental health illnesses can hit the person suffering and their loved ones like a ton of bricks. You’ll never see it coming and you won’t even know it’s been infesting your loved one’s mind for at least months later.

They could be smiling and laughing but also feel empty and painfully lonely on the inside.

But, the most important lesson to remember is: never give up on them.

No matter how much they fight against your help or no matter how much they convince you that they’re ok, leaving them alone will make their sickness so much worse.

At the same time, it’s easy to get to a point where nothing you do is helping and you feel helpless and defeated.

Everyone is different, so treating a mental illness is different for everyone.

The first step in supporting a loved one with a mental illness is understanding the illness and creating an open dialogue.

Research the illness.

This requires extensive and accurate research. It’s vital to know what you’re going to be dealing with and what you’re getting yourself into. So, knowing the causes, symptoms and treatments can help you target the problem and eliminate it as soon as possible.

According to a Psychology Today article by Victoria Maxwell, a speaker on her lived experience of mental illness and recovery, informing yourself about the illness is vital.

“Get the truth not the myths. Local mental health associations are terrific resources to help you understand the illness and the route recovery often takes. It’s also an ideal place to find others going through or who have gone through similar experiences.”

Learn how to talk to someone with a mental illness.

David F. Swink, former Director of the National Institute of Mental HealthTraining Program in Psychodrama and Group Psychotherapy, wrote in a Psychology Today article that when talking to a loved one with a mental illness “be respectful to the person. When someone feels respected and heard, they are more likely to return respect and consider what you have to say.”

It’s important to remember that a person’s mental illness doesn’t affect their intelligence. Do not lie to them.

Make sure to make them feel safe and comfortable. It’s also important to stay calm and patient. It’s difficult to convince someone with a mental illness to express their feelings but it will happen eventually.

Find them professional help.

You wouldn’t expect to treat a broken leg on your own, so don’t expect to treat a mental illness without medical help.

According to psychiatrist Dr. Mark S. Komrad, “research has shown that mental illness tends to disrupt people’s lives even more than physical conditions.”

Psychologist Daniel J. Reidenberg told Huffington Post that seeking medical help can speed up the process of recovery.

“The earlier someone gets help, the easier it is to get through the problem,” Reidenberg said. “There will be less time and less strain and stress involved in that.”

There is also a lot of stigma around seeing a psychologist or therapist. Society has compared seeking medical help to being “crazy” or as a sign of weakness. But therapy is vital to a healthy mental state no matter who you are or what you’re going through.

“There is still an unjustified stigma around mental illnesses, but we’re not even talking about mental illness,” Reidenberg said. “We’re just talking about life and how hard life can be. The benefits of psychotherapy [can be viewed] more like stress-relievers like exercising and eating right — just strategies that help make life easier and help to remove stressors.”

The minute your loved one starts showing signs of a mental illness such as stress, a lack of interest in life, social withdrawal or a decrease in energy, start talking to them about finding a medical professional.

If they are a danger to themselves or feeling suicidal, it’s absolutely vital to admit them to a hospital immediately.

Your loved one is never going to get fully better without medical attention.

Lastly, your support is the most important help you can offer.

When attempting to support a loved one who is mentally ill, you need to remember that you can’t cure them. They can’t get better unless they want to. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, offering them support can have more positive effects than you would ever assume. Giving them support to seek medical help and to participate in healthy activities is the first step to helping your loved one get better. If you give up on them, they will give up on themselves. If they know they have someone by their side at all times, their problems will seem less scary and easier to handle.

Mental health illnesses aren’t as easily understood as a cold or a broken arm. You can’t cure an unstable brain with aspirin or a cast. But your loved one will not stay in this mental state forever. They can get better, but it’s up to you to lead them into a happier and healthier lifestyle.