A mental health advocate has once said that “mental illness can make a family become poor”. This certainly is a true statement. Helping a family member cope with mental illness can break your bank. So, what is someone to do when faced with someone with a mental disorder? There are many ways to cope with someone suffering from a mental disorder. However, ignoring the problem will not make it go away.
First, remember that you are not to blame. You did not cause that person to become mentally ill. Many times, people are quick to blame themselves for a relative’s mental disorder. Also, the person with the mental illness sometimes reinforces this false idea by blaming other family members. Second, treat the mental illness as if it is a medical issue. Mental illness is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. You can help the person suffering by getting them medication and therapy. Keep in mind that it may take several years of trial and error before the right medication can be found. The sooner that this process begins, the sooner someone can recover. Group therapy is effective in allowing the person with the mental illness to realize that they are not alone and to gain much needed support. Individual counseling may help family members cope with the extra burden and stress.
Third, there are resources family members have access to that are not know to the general public. For example, the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania (MHASP) offers support groups, educational classes, and other resources for family members coping with a person with mental illness. Many times, these support groups can become invaluable in hunting down other resources to help the person suffering get housing, medication, food, and other forms of needed help.
NAMI-Pennsylvania is another resource for family members. NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness and it is a non-profit advocacy and support group for caregivers of those suffering from a mental illness. NAMI is a grassroots movement started by family members in the 1970’s. NAMI provides education, advocacy, and support for caregivers. Membership to both of these organizations is free and open to the general public. Both NAMI and MHASP do accept voluntary donations.
Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania – Phone: (215) 751-1800 Website: www.mhasp.org
NAMI-Pennyslvania: Phone: (717) 238-1514 Website: www.namipa.nami.org