In my personal experience the support from my parents has been essential to my recovery. Since my diagnosis of depression and a first episode of psychosis they have really been there for me. They visited me every day when I was admitted to hospital which helped me to stay optimistic and gave me something to look forward to every day while I was in there. Without my family I don’t think I would have recovered as quickly or be feeling as great as I do now.
I realise many parents may find it hard to discover that their child has a mental health issue as there is so much prejudice and stigma attached to it. However, many people with mental health issues go on to have satisfying and fulfilling lives.
This list is made up of tips that helped me personally, and although each case is an individual matter based on individual circumstances, I hope the following tips will help you to help your child.
1. Listen and try to be understanding – Listen to your child and don’t judge them. My own family told me I could talk to them about anything and having them there to talk to really helped me come to terms with what was going on in my own mind.
2. Show them affection – Try to tell them and show them how much you care. Since my diagnosis my parents have told me many times how much they love and care for me and this has made me feel wanted and loved. It has also helped me to feel a part of the family and I now know that I have somewhere and someplace to belong.
3. Research the condition – There are many different mental illnesses, read up on your child’s specific condition. This will help you better understand not only the condition but also what helps recovery and what can prevent relapses in the future. My dad purchased books to learn more about my condition and how to help. This made me feel like my parents were on my side and were doing all they could to help me. It also made me feel like I wasn’t going through it alone.
4. Don’t blame yourself – It is easy for a parent to blame themselves, somehow thinking they have caused the illness either through genetics or the environment they have raised their child in. This, however, in many circumstances, is not the case at all. The only thing you can do is be there for your child and help them.
5. Encourage social interaction with friends and family – My parents encouraged me to go out and meet people and also to maintain contacts. I found this extremely helpful. Also, the Early Intervention team set up regular social groups and I have made many friends through this and participated in a variety of fun activities. There are schemes such as Uthink which is run by Rethink Mental Illness as well as other youth groups run by various charities. The key thing though is to not rush your child into anything, it will take time.
6. Provide a peaceful and loving environment – A loving environment can be so helpful for your child’s recovery and wellbeing. My parents have provided me with a very calm and peaceful home environment since I left the hospital and purposely refrain from any arguing or conflicts, which I really appreciate and am massively grateful for. The whole mood and atmosphere of my household has improved and, not only me, but everyone is a lot happier and more cheerful.
7. Do activities together – When my sister comes to visit, she, my brother and I always do at least one activity together. Activities we’ve done together include going to the cinema, restaurants, the zoo, the sealife centre, amongst many other things. I have found that doing these activities has brought everyone in my family closer together and has caused us to bond so much more. Ask your child what they would like to do. Enjoy the time you spend together but understand that your child might take time before they start enjoying activities again.
8. Let them know they can talk to you anytime about anything – I have been fortunate in this respect as my family have been so understanding and just want me to stay well. They are always there for me when I need to talk to them, whether it’s to do with mental health issues or anything else. My dad doesn’t talk very much but he always listens to me about whatever I want to talk about and this has helped me to get things off my chest and feel relaxed. Your child may not want to talk at first, or may only say a few words, but always reassure them they can talk to you as little or as much as they want in their own time.
9. Know that recovery will occur over time and will not happen overnight – In my case the effects of psychosis, after taking medication for it, took four to five months to completely wear off. Also, I had been depressed for a much longer period of my life but the medication prescribed to me has been amazing and has completely lifted my mood. I stopped feeling depressed extremely quickly, within a matter of days. However, I have been told by several mental health professionals that medication does not work for everyone. Mental health issues can be extremely complex and recovery can take anything from a few days to months to years. In some cases, the illness may be lifelong but coping strategies and/or medication can be used to manage it.
10. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from mental health professionals – Please don’t be afraid to seek help or advice from mental health professionals. They have a vast amount of experience in dealing with people suffering from mental health issues and are an excellent source to get help and advice from. There are also support groups available for parents, guardians and carers to help deal with the whole situation, such as, carer support groups.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you can do to help your child suffering from mental health problems. There are many others things you can do but I hope these 10 tips will be a starting point when helping your child.
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