For Teens: What If My Parent or Friend Has a Mental Illness?

Reviewed Oct 13, 2016

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Summary

Help your loved one by educating yourself. Be helpful, but don’t try to solve their problems.

It can be scary when someone you love gets sick. They may be acting differently and you don’t know why. You want to help them. But you don’t know what you can do to help them get better.

If your friend—or even your parent—is having problems, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the illness. Read everything you can find. Ask questions if you have a mental health resource person at school or in the community. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to help your loved one confront the challenges of their mental illness.

The more you know what they are going through, the less you’ll be afraid or turned off by their problems. And, you’ll have realistic expectations when they start to get better.

It’s not your fault

Young people often believe they are responsible for their friend’s condition. You might even believe you caused your friend’s problems. 

You might say: “If only I had been a better friend, he would be fine!” or “I should have known something was wrong. Maybe I could have prevented her depression.”

But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

You are not responsible for someone else’s problems. Mental illnesses do not come from something you or anyone else did to that person. They are caused by abnormal chemicals in the brain. You didn’t cause it and there was nothing you could do to prevent it.

You can’t solve the problem

You also might believe that you have the power to pull someone out of a depression simply by telling them to work harder, or change their attitude. That may not work for everyone. Once again, brain chemistry has to change and the best way for that to happen is through medication or psychotherapy directed by professionals.

If you try to push your friend to control the illness, you just put more pressure on her when she’s already very confused and unhappy.

Learn all you can

If your parent is ill, once again, learn all you can so you can understand what is going on. You might have to switch roles for a while and give up being taken care of, while your parent gets help. In fact, you might not have any other option. Having other support people you can turn to will be helpful.

Be flexible and supportive

You can help a lot by doing some things for yourself that you expected him to do for you. You can do the laundry. Shop for groceries. Make your own lunch. Wash the dishes. Sometimes just listening and encouraging a person to set their own goals can help greatly. It probably won’t be forever, and you’ll be taking a burden off someone who’s already struggling with a heavy load.

If your parent is going to need long-term help, another caretaker may step into the home to help take care of you and other children, or you might be moved temporarily into a foster or relative’s home. Try to be flexible and accept this temporary situation.

Take care of yourself

On the other hand, if that solution doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your caretaker if you need help getting to school or work, doing homework, or dealing with your parent’s illness. 

Mental illnesses are treatable and most people get better with treatment. Give your parent as much support as you can to make it easier for recovery to move along as quickly as possible, but don’t give up your schoolwork, your job, or your social life. It’s important that you stay strong and healthy. Counseling may be appropriate if you find it difficult to cope with the additional stress. Other options you could explore include support groups and recovery support services for family members.

Remember, the best way to help a loved one is to show your support through your words and actions. Keep the line of communication open. Don’t run away, but say something like, “I’m here and want to support you. If there’s anything you need from me, just let me know.”

Resource

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, psychiatrist, author, and Medical Director of NRI Community Services, Woonsocket, RI; Joseph Wegman, PD, LCSW, specializing in depression, New Orleans, LA
Reviewed by Julie Tull, CRSS, Peer & Family Support Specialist, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Help your loved one by educating yourself. Be helpful, but don’t try to solve their problems.

It can be scary when someone you love gets sick. They may be acting differently and you don’t know why. You want to help them. But you don’t know what you can do to help them get better.

If your friend—or even your parent—is having problems, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the illness. Read everything you can find. Ask questions if you have a mental health resource person at school or in the community. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to help your loved one confront the challenges of their mental illness.

The more you know what they are going through, the less you’ll be afraid or turned off by their problems. And, you’ll have realistic expectations when they start to get better.

It’s not your fault

Young people often believe they are responsible for their friend’s condition. You might even believe you caused your friend’s problems. 

You might say: “If only I had been a better friend, he would be fine!” or “I should have known something was wrong. Maybe I could have prevented her depression.”

But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

You are not responsible for someone else’s problems. Mental illnesses do not come from something you or anyone else did to that person. They are caused by abnormal chemicals in the brain. You didn’t cause it and there was nothing you could do to prevent it.

You can’t solve the problem

You also might believe that you have the power to pull someone out of a depression simply by telling them to work harder, or change their attitude. That may not work for everyone. Once again, brain chemistry has to change and the best way for that to happen is through medication or psychotherapy directed by professionals.

If you try to push your friend to control the illness, you just put more pressure on her when she’s already very confused and unhappy.

Learn all you can

If your parent is ill, once again, learn all you can so you can understand what is going on. You might have to switch roles for a while and give up being taken care of, while your parent gets help. In fact, you might not have any other option. Having other support people you can turn to will be helpful.

Be flexible and supportive

You can help a lot by doing some things for yourself that you expected him to do for you. You can do the laundry. Shop for groceries. Make your own lunch. Wash the dishes. Sometimes just listening and encouraging a person to set their own goals can help greatly. It probably won’t be forever, and you’ll be taking a burden off someone who’s already struggling with a heavy load.

If your parent is going to need long-term help, another caretaker may step into the home to help take care of you and other children, or you might be moved temporarily into a foster or relative’s home. Try to be flexible and accept this temporary situation.

Take care of yourself

On the other hand, if that solution doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your caretaker if you need help getting to school or work, doing homework, or dealing with your parent’s illness. 

Mental illnesses are treatable and most people get better with treatment. Give your parent as much support as you can to make it easier for recovery to move along as quickly as possible, but don’t give up your schoolwork, your job, or your social life. It’s important that you stay strong and healthy. Counseling may be appropriate if you find it difficult to cope with the additional stress. Other options you could explore include support groups and recovery support services for family members.

Remember, the best way to help a loved one is to show your support through your words and actions. Keep the line of communication open. Don’t run away, but say something like, “I’m here and want to support you. If there’s anything you need from me, just let me know.”

Resource

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, psychiatrist, author, and Medical Director of NRI Community Services, Woonsocket, RI; Joseph Wegman, PD, LCSW, specializing in depression, New Orleans, LA
Reviewed by Julie Tull, CRSS, Peer & Family Support Specialist, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Help your loved one by educating yourself. Be helpful, but don’t try to solve their problems.

It can be scary when someone you love gets sick. They may be acting differently and you don’t know why. You want to help them. But you don’t know what you can do to help them get better.

If your friend—or even your parent—is having problems, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the illness. Read everything you can find. Ask questions if you have a mental health resource person at school or in the community. The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to help your loved one confront the challenges of their mental illness.

The more you know what they are going through, the less you’ll be afraid or turned off by their problems. And, you’ll have realistic expectations when they start to get better.

It’s not your fault

Young people often believe they are responsible for their friend’s condition. You might even believe you caused your friend’s problems. 

You might say: “If only I had been a better friend, he would be fine!” or “I should have known something was wrong. Maybe I could have prevented her depression.”

But, nothing could be farther from the truth.

You are not responsible for someone else’s problems. Mental illnesses do not come from something you or anyone else did to that person. They are caused by abnormal chemicals in the brain. You didn’t cause it and there was nothing you could do to prevent it.

You can’t solve the problem

You also might believe that you have the power to pull someone out of a depression simply by telling them to work harder, or change their attitude. That may not work for everyone. Once again, brain chemistry has to change and the best way for that to happen is through medication or psychotherapy directed by professionals.

If you try to push your friend to control the illness, you just put more pressure on her when she’s already very confused and unhappy.

Learn all you can

If your parent is ill, once again, learn all you can so you can understand what is going on. You might have to switch roles for a while and give up being taken care of, while your parent gets help. In fact, you might not have any other option. Having other support people you can turn to will be helpful.

Be flexible and supportive

You can help a lot by doing some things for yourself that you expected him to do for you. You can do the laundry. Shop for groceries. Make your own lunch. Wash the dishes. Sometimes just listening and encouraging a person to set their own goals can help greatly. It probably won’t be forever, and you’ll be taking a burden off someone who’s already struggling with a heavy load.

If your parent is going to need long-term help, another caretaker may step into the home to help take care of you and other children, or you might be moved temporarily into a foster or relative’s home. Try to be flexible and accept this temporary situation.

Take care of yourself

On the other hand, if that solution doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to speak up. Tell your caretaker if you need help getting to school or work, doing homework, or dealing with your parent’s illness. 

Mental illnesses are treatable and most people get better with treatment. Give your parent as much support as you can to make it easier for recovery to move along as quickly as possible, but don’t give up your schoolwork, your job, or your social life. It’s important that you stay strong and healthy. Counseling may be appropriate if you find it difficult to cope with the additional stress. Other options you could explore include support groups and recovery support services for family members.

Remember, the best way to help a loved one is to show your support through your words and actions. Keep the line of communication open. Don’t run away, but say something like, “I’m here and want to support you. If there’s anything you need from me, just let me know.”

Resource

Mental Health America
(800) 969-6642
www.nmha.org

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Scott Haltzman, MD, psychiatrist, author, and Medical Director of NRI Community Services, Woonsocket, RI; Joseph Wegman, PD, LCSW, specializing in depression, New Orleans, LA
Reviewed by Julie Tull, CRSS, Peer & Family Support Specialist, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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