Mental Health Hurdles You Can Overcome
When someone you love is diagnosed with a mental illness the challenges can feel overwhelming. My loved one has lived with depression, anxiety and bi-polar disorder for the past 17 years. We have experienced the difficulties of securing treatment with behavioral health clinics and psychiatrists, hospitalizations, suicidal thoughts and actions, and many medication changes.
The road has been bumpy, and we have struggled, but thankfully we did not face these challenges alone. We had the support of family members, co-workers, amazing friends and a well-informed and compassionate insurance company who helped us get the best care possible.
I am passionate about sharing our story with its challenges and successes to aid others experiencing similar difficulties. Here are some of the things we have learned.
- There aren’t enough qualified mental health professionals to see the number of diagnosed (and undiagnosed) people. This is common across the country, however, there are resources available through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and their local chapters. Many health insurance providers also offer virtual visits through services such as MDLive.
- It can take a long time to figure out the right combination of medication(s), treatment plan, and/or therapist. It can take four to six weeks for someone to obtain the full benefit of a medication. This process can be discouraging, so be patient. Focus on open communication between you, your family members, doctors and therapists. It’s OK to try multiple medications and therapies to get the combination that works best.
- People often feel ashamed to have a diagnosed mental illness. Mental illness is no different from other diseases. Remember they didn’t cause their illness, and they can’t just “get over it” any more than one can get over heart disease or diabetes.
- People with mental illness might abruptly decide to go off a prescribed medication which could cause a mental health crisis. You may not be able to convince them to stay on their medications but offer them support. Encourage them to be in contact with their prescriber and try to help them realize they are better off on their medication.
- Substance abuse is more prevalent in individuals with a diagnosed severe mental illness (according to The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), upward of 50 percent). This can lead to risky behaviors in tandem with their mental illness. There are support groups available such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
- It helps to focus on loving support. Reassure your family member that you’ll never stop loving them. Trust your instincts and invest in your own mental health while you support your loved one. With open communication and realistic boundaries, this situation can bring your family closer together and help you build a new support system.
Our family continues to learn how to manage the challenges of mental illness, and we are proud of the self-aware and independent person he has become. He is learning to take ownership of his illness and is taking the necessary steps to have a healthy mind and body.
- If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, anxiety, changes in thought patterns, changes in personal habits or any other common symptoms, please seek help.
- Talk to your human resources department – Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for their employees and family that are free or have a minimal charge.
- Contact your health insurance company – Most health insurance plans have some behavioral health benefits and may have staff dedicated to supporting their members with mental illness.
- Search for resources in your county – There are free or low-cost resources available in many counties in Wisconsin, visit Mental Health America of Wisconsin to search for your county.