When Your Loved Ones Need Psychiatric Care
The decision to put a loved one in psychiatric care can be tricky. For starters, there is a stigma in this country regarding mental health. Many view it as harmful to a person’s future to have a mental health diagnosis on their record. Not to mention it is hard to recognize the warnings signs of a psychiatric disorder.
The problem is that when a psychiatric disorder goes undiagnosed and untreated, the person suffers, and so can those around them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), almost one out of five American adults experience mental illness annually, but only about 41 percent receive treatment. Moreso, one in five teens from the age of 13-18, are diagnosed with a severe mental illness every year.
It is best to learn the signs of mental illness to prevent future problems that can occur if they go untreated. Also, helpful is knowing how to approach the issue in conversation with that person and get them into treatment.
The first sign that someone may have a mental illness is a sudden change in their behavior. It’s one thing to be an introvert, but it’s an entirely different situation when a person suddenly becomes withdrawn and disinterested in activities and people they once enjoyed. Lethargy is also a sign that something could be wrong.
Another sign could be increased agitation. Yes, this could also be a sign of drug dependency; either way, you need to get your loved one help right away.
Anytime anyone threatens to harm another or themselves, should be taken very seriously. A suicidal threat is not the only cause for worry. Other ways of hurting themselves or others include aggressive behavior, both physical and verbal, refusing to eat or forcing themselves to vomit after eating, and signs of cutting.
These are not the only signs of mental health illness. Mentalhealthamerica.net lists out more warning signs by age group.
When you know what to look for and find that a loved one has one or more symptoms, take the time to talk to them. Discuss what you have witnessed and ask that person to share their side. Listen, it’s more important to be an active, empathetic listener than it is to respond.
Open communication and caring are vital to one’s recovery, but please don’t think you can heal them on your own. Explain that you cannot and will not be their psychiatrist, counselor, or social worker, but you are available as a friend or family member. It is vital you do not shield them from psychiatric care.
Regardless of the social stigma related to mental illness, keeping them from proper care can only harm your loved one. NAMI’s statistics claim suicide is the second highest cause of death in teens and young adults, and adults that live with undiagnosed mental illness die 25 years earlier than the healthy adults due to untreated medical conditions. Helping a loved one get treated can not only improve the quality of their life, but it can save their life and extend the duration of their life as well.
Don’t let them deal with the issue alone. The beginning is the hardest part for both the person who has mental illness and the loved one. The person who might have mental illness needs to feel safe as much as you do. Set up the appointment with them and offer to go along for the first visit. Understand, some doctor’s offices may charge for an additional person, since they will most likely assess the well-being of both people in the office, but it’s worth the extra cost and the trust you will gain.
Treatment and recovery do not stop at the doctor’s office. It takes time and relapses can happen. Keep on eye on your friend or family member and let them know when you see them struggle. Don’t forget the importance of acknowledging them when they are well. Sometimes an external point-of-view can help one look at the improvements they didn’t recognize on their own.
No one wants to believe they have a mental illness or that someone they love is suffering due to an undiagnosed psychological disorder, but far too many people are suffering in silence until it is too late.
It’s time we stop treating mental illness like a pariah. We can make positive changes to help others improve their lives. By doing so, we save our friends and family and ourselves from unnecessary long-term consequences of undiagnosed mental illness.