Strategies for Helping Mentally Ill Loved Ones

Prepared by Ingrid Waldron, NAMI PA, Main Line

1.  Review of Problems Experienced by Family Members

  • including a mentally ill person may be psychotic (out of touch with reality), have delusions (fixed beliefs that do not change in response to evidence to the contrary), and/or have anosognosia (the inability to perceive an illness)

2.  LEAP

Listen to understand what the other person’s experience. Ask questions. Reflect back what you have heard, without your opinions and ideas.

Empathize with how the person feels about their symptoms and what has happened to them (without necessarily agreeing with their view of reality).

Agree: Find areas of agreement, including goals you both want (e.g. to stay out of the hospital).

Partner: Collaborate to work toward agreed upon goals.

(I Am Not Sick, I Don’t Need Help! by Xavier Amador, http://www.leapinstitute.org/; http://leapinstitute.org/wpadmin/free-leap-videos/; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnbOizw_zS0https://namipamainline.org/communicating-with-a-loved-one-who-has-a-mental-illness/)

3.  Mental Health First Aid Action Plan (ALGEE)

Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
(If emergency, 911; see https://namipamainline.org/crisis-numbers/ for local and national crisis numbers and advice about coping with a crisis and avoiding a crisis.)

Listen non-judgmentally.

Give reassurance and information.

Encourage appropriate professional help.

Encourage self-help and other support strategies.
(http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/; guidelines for helping someone with various mental illnesses or substance use at https://mhfa.com.au/cms/guidelines)

4.  Other Problem-Solving Strategies

  • Find the support you need to approach problem-solving in a calm and constructive frame of mind.
  • Work on one problem at a time and be specific about what the difficulty is.
  • Revisit past experience and identify what has worked and what hasn’t.
  • Brainstorm additional options, including the option of doing nothing.
  • Continue previously successful approaches and choose one or two new options to try.

(For training, support group, etc., call Edie Mannion, 215-751-1800 x 3863.)

5.  Family Education           

(e.g. Family-to-Family, Judy Green, 610-668-7917, F2FMainLine@aol.com and Getting off the Emotional Roller Coaster, https://www.mentalhealthpartnerships.org/tec/)

6.  Working with Mental Health Professionals

  • Seek out family-friendly clinicians.
  • You can provide input and information to a clinician even when the clinician can’t provide information to you due to HIPAA.
  • Try to obtain agreement about communication between clinician and family members during times when loved one is stable.

For additional helpful advice, see
https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/1407-W_MHFA_carers_guidelinesA4V2.pdf

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