Tips for Helping Friends & Family with Mental Illness
Hi, I’m Angela, I have a husband with bipolar 2 disorder, my kids have ADHD, and I myself have struggled with depression—YOU’RE NOT ALONE! This week’s mental health tips are about helping friends and family with mental illness.
Understanding how to help friends and family with mental illness can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? As a young wife I watched my husband go from an outgoing, happy, and funny guy to a man who was unpredictable, angry, and sad. I had no idea how to help. I wish I would have had someone to guide me on how to build a collaborative relationship with Michael from the start.
Dr. Xavier Amador developed LEAP, there’s a link in the resource notes below. LEAP is a system for communicating and collaborating to solve problems with a loved one with mental illness. LEAP includes this sequence:
- Listen: Listen to understand what the person is telling you about themselves and their experiences. Reflect back what you have heard, without your opinions and ideas.
- Empathize: Empathize with how the person feels about their experiences and symptoms, (without necessarily agreeing with their view of reality, i.g. “That sounds scary. Do you feel frightened?”)
- Agree: Find areas of agreement. Especially goals you both want. (i.g. To stay out of the hospital. To keep their job.)
- Partner: Collaborate to work toward agreed upon goals.
This might sound difficult to do. I get that. My natural way of addressing a problem is to say, “Look, this what you’re gonna do, because you need to do it.” But the bottom line is that we won’t have any influence if we don’t have relationship.
I love what Jesus said in Luke 18:27
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27
Jesus was talking about salvation in this context, but we can also remember God’s character trait of omnipotence—he is all powerful. When we feel like we are hitting a brick wall, unable to help our loved ones we can rest in the knowledge that God is all powerful and we can trust Him.
How have you helped a loved one struggling with mental illness? I’d love to hear from you today, comment below.
For more information on practicing LEAP
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