Mental Illness: Tips for Family Members

Take What You Like-Leave the Rest

If your loved one has been diagnosed with a mental illness, you might find yourself in a state of conflict: you want to help, but find it hard not to react in an emotional manner to his sometimes irrational behavior. That's where we can help. Here's a list of tips that may help improve your communication skills. You might find that these tips are not just helpful in getting along with someone with a brain disorder--they can help you get along with just about anyone. As always, take what you like (what works) and leave the rest.

Tell the truth and keep it simple

Make it short and sweet

Be exact

Look at him

Describe your feelings

Be firm

Make helpful suggestions

Repetition can be useful

Evaluate his state of mind--if he seems agitated, it might be better to wait for your talk

Anticipate that you may need to allow more time to end a conversation with grace

Don't expect rational conversation or response

Expect to extend extra effort to gain his attention or to initiate conversation

Watch for changing emotions but keep your response on an even keel

Don't pay attention to delusions

Remain positive

Ignore silence or delayed reactions

Be clear when describing the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior

Praise all progress, no matter how slight

Love him but hate his disease

Help Him Regain Control

If your loved one displays anger, there are methods that can help you to cope with your feelings and assist him in regaining control of his emotions.

Stay Calm

Hear him out

Find an aspect of his conversation with which you can agree, and say so

Keep the conversation focused and avoid veering into tangents by repeating the initial topic

Don't be afraid to state the acceptable limits in a calm manner, as many times as necessary

Use simple language

Talk it over with a cup of coffee or nosh. Sharing food and drink is an effective bonding tool

Keep your tone respectful and be his peer, not his boss

Remember not to take his words to heart--it's not personal

Don't ignore him or turn away from him

Never argue or get into a power struggle

Refrain from threats

Assume makes an ass out of u and me--don't assume you know everything

Don't patronize by faking your positive attention--be real--he knows the difference

Never make a promise you can't keep

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