When someone has cancer or is experiencing another health issue, friends and extended family members often surround that person and his or her household with support in the form of everything from meal delivery to assistance with rides to cards of encouragement. However, when the challenge at hand is a mental health struggle, the response is often quite the opposite, and many times family caregivers are left feeling alone and overwhelmed.
Families impacted by mental illness desperately need the support and assistance of a caring community! Thankfully, there are many ways friends and extended family can help, providing a lifeline to caregivers.
1. Be informed.
The more you know about mental illness and its impact on families, the more effectively you can offer support. By proactively seeking to learn about how these conditions affect the people you care about, you can equip yourself to help and encourage with understanding. Organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America and the National Institute of Mental Health provide reliable information and practical tips that can help you gain insight.
2. Bring a meal.
Just as a chronic physical illness can steal the time and energy needed to make nutritious meals, mental illness can be a consuming experience for a family that leaves little margin for preparing healthy food. Consider asking when you could drop off a casserole or pot of soup, or even a lunch or dinner picked up from the grocery store. A meal doesn’t need to fancy or elaborate to be a blessing.
3. Offer a ride.
Families impacted by mental illness deal with its challenges on top of the many responsibilities of everyday life, making routine tasks even more of a juggling act. By offering to pick up a sibling from soccer practice or drive an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, you can help give a little breathing room.
4. Lend an ear.
Simply listening may be one of the most powerful things you can do to come alongside a family caregiver. When you ask how he or she is really doing and then lend an ear without judgement or jumping in to provide advice, you give them gift of being heard and understood. And, in turn, you gain understanding of how to pray specifically and assist in ways that are truly helpful.
5. Include them.
Families impacted by serious mental health challenges sometimes struggle to find a welcoming community. By including them in events like picnics or inviting them to join your family on outings, you can demonstrate that you accept them and may help them make connections with others who could also be part of a supportive circle.
6. Actively encourage.
A word of encouragement can mean a great deal to both those living with mental illness and the people who love and care for them. These expressions don’t need to be long or detailed to be meaningful. Simply writing “I’m thinking of you” in a card, texting “praying for you” or just telling a family that you care can serve as a powerful reminder that they are not alone and that they matter to others.
7. Pray for them.
Praying for families dealing with the challenges of mental illness is a real and powerful way to support them, and asking a family member how you can pray specifically can be an encouragement in and of itself. If you’re not sure what to pray for, the 31 days, 31 ways 2 pray 4 families prayer guide is an excellent resource that provides a prompt for prayer for each day of the month, helping you bring the needs of families impacted by mental illness before God specifically and regularly.
Although some members of The Well Community are blessed to have family members who come alongside them, most lack this kind of support. For those with families not able to help, the acceptance, assistance and friendship they find at The Well is especially vital. Your gift enables us to continue to give them a “family” where they belong. Give today.
Be sure to keep an eye the Well’s blog, as well as follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to learn more about mental illnesses and how you can come alongside those impacted by these challenges.