5 Ways to Ease a Family Member into Mental Health Treatment
When a family member is struggling but refuses to seek help for a mental health issue, it can be very frustrating. You want them to get better and know that with the right treatment, they can improve, but you feel powerless. Whether your loved one is dealing with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, or some other issue, there are ways you can gently motivate them to seek help.
1. Start by talking, not telling.
One of the toughest yet most important things you can do is open up the dialog about what your loved one is going through. Avoid being judgmental or telling them what they “should” or “must” do. Don’t try to prove that you’re right and they’re wrong about their condition. And don’t think you need to provide answers or give them solutions for their symptoms. Sometimes, the best way to start is to simply let them know you care and you’re willing to listen.
Here are some magic words to open communication:
- I’m concerned about you.
- I’m here for you.
- Can we talk about how you’re feeling?
- Is there someone else you might feel more comfortable talking to?
Larry found a good way to get the conversation started with his wife Rose, who grew up in an alcoholic home, had troubles with alcohol and marijuana as a teen, had periodic bouts of depression, was severely inflexible, held grudges, and was “the world’s worst worrier.” She tended to oppose whatever Larry wanted to do, and their arguments were frequently over nothing. Larry knew Rose needed help but wasn’t sure how to broach the subject.
One day, he went to a conference and heard Dr. Daniel Amen speak at a conference for children of alcoholics. It sounded like he was talking about his wife Rose. So, Larry got one of Dr. Amen’s DVDs and when he got home, he suggested he and Rose watch it together. It sparked a conversation, and Rose opened up about her problems, and she got on board with the idea of seeing someone about her issues.
2. Facilitate the care process.
Be prepared that your family member may give you a number of excuses why they can’t access help—too far, too expensive, too time-consuming, for example. Anticipate these objections and offer to help where you can. Do they need someone to watch the kids, drive them to appointments, pay for services? Look into child-care services or offer to do it yourself. Help them arrange for transportation. Help out financially if possible or assist with filling out paperwork to get financial assistance or credit. By eliminating the barriers to care, you can help them focus on getting better.
3. Show them that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
The stress of caring for someone who is suffering can take a toll on your own mental health. Seeking therapy for yourself can provide you with an outlet to talk about your concerns for your loved one. This also sets a good example for your family members. When they see you talk about how the treatment is helping you, they may be more likely to follow in your footsteps. You may also want to suggest going to therapy together or doing family therapy—not to fix them, but to strengthen all the relationships in the family unit. You can let the psychiatrist know beforehand about your concerns so they can best direct therapy sessions.
4. Inform their physician.
If your loved one still refuses to seek help, you may want to contact their regular physician to alert them to your concerns. This may allow the doctor to ask important questions during your family member’s next appointment. This can be helpful for several reasons. For example, some people are more willing to listen to someone outside the family unit, and some people respond better to a professional in the medical field.
5. Don’t wait to engage the entire family in brain-healthy habits.
Adopting lifestyle habits that enhance brain health is foundational to successful treatment. You don’t need to wait for your loved one to visit a psychiatrist to start infusing brain health awareness into your everyday lives. Rather than focusing only on the person who suffers, which is a strategy that typically invites frustration and failure, get everyone in the family on board with healthy nutrition, exercise, and other brain-healthy habits. When you take the approach that “We’re all trying to get healthier together,” it’s yet another way to open the conversation about mental health.
If you have a family member or loved one who is struggling with mental health issues, understand that there are ways you can help them get the treatment they need. At Amen Clinics, we are here for you to help your family member get the treatment they need.
To find out more about how we can help, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.