When we consider the term “wellness”, we often focus on the physical aspects of health. We think about things like diet and exercise, ensuring that we seek the necessary treatments and support for physical afflictions, and so on. But total wellness also includes the mental and emotional aspects of a person’s health, too.
It’s important to remember that, just as achieving optimal physical health requires a smart lifestyle and making good choices, mental wellness likewise requires special consideration as well. Especially when a person suffers from an emotional or mental health disorder, wellness can only be achieved when the individual utilizes the right combination of treatment and other vital resources, including family support.
But what is family support, exactly? How can loved ones be more supportive of an individual who is suffering from a mental health disorder or substance abuse problem? And what role does family support play in the journey to total wellness?
What Do We Mean By “Family Support”?
Suffering from a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem is a very lonely, emotional, and physically draining experience. With most disorders, the symptoms and effects inhibit virtually every aspect of a person’s life, including his or her ability to fulfill work or school responsibilities, play a key role in the family unit, maintain important relationships, focus on addressing essential health needs, and so on. When left untreated, a mental health or substance use disorder has profound effects on a person’s life, exacerbating the severity of the disorder and potentially causing any number of other secondary effects.
Besides clinical treatment for such disorders, there are other vital resources that have proven to be essential for individuals who suffer from mental health and substance abuse disorders. In particular, family support is extremely important for a number of reasons.
But first, what is family support?
Balanced, Unconditional Support
Family members are often the most important people in a person’s life. In fact, family is one of the most vital social constructs that exist today, often forming the backbone of communities large and small.
The best way to exemplify the importance of family is to consider the role that family plays in the life of a newborn infant. Unable to care for himself or herself, an infant relies on his or her family — particularly the mother and father — for survival. The parents ensure that the infant has food to eat, is kept safe from the dangers of the world, and provides ample opportunities for emotional bonding. It’s the emotional bonding that’s particularly relevant when it comes to family support.
Much like newborn infants, individuals who are suffering from mental health or substance abuse disorders have needs that are amplified as a result of their disorders. As the disorder inhibits aspects of healthy functioning, the individual is unable to think, feel, or behave in healthy, productive ways. If left to his or her own devices, such an individual would experience increasing severity of his or her symptoms. When you consider that many individuals suffering from a mental health or substance abuse disorder either don’t realize the disorder exists or don’t see how severe the effects of the disorder have become, family members become advocates on behalf of the afflicted individual.
Rather than allowing the individual to continue to spiral downward, family members can emotionally intervene, providing unconditional support so as to bring awareness to the reality of the disorder or its effects, encourage the individual to seek diagnosis and treatment, and/or to promote his or her continued efforts in recovery.
Helping a Loved One Through Diagnosis & Beyond
When a person suffers from a mental health or substance abuse disorder, seeking treatment isn’t the only part of the journey to lasting health and recovery. In fact, treatment is actually one of the more advanced stages, especially when the afflicted individual isn’t fully aware that he or she suffers from a mental health or substance abuse disorder.
The support of a person’s family members is essential at each stage of the recovery process, whether it’s realizing that the disorder exists, recognizing the severity and implications of the disorder, seeking diagnosis and treatment, or applying the principles learned in treatment to continue to alleviate the effects of the disorder. Family support plays an essential role during all of these stages of recovery, so it’s important that the loved ones of an afflicted individual maintain their support and involvement throughout the process.
Key Support Strategies for Families
If you have a loved one who is suffering from a mental health or substance abuse disorder, there are a number of different support strategies you can employ to give your loved one the best chances of achieving lasting recovery. Each of these support strategies is important for different reasons.
Education & Understanding
Before you can effectively offer your unconditional support, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the mental health or substance abuse disorder. So arguably the most important support strategy is to educate yourself so you can offer a greater understanding.
Awareness & Recognition
Having learned about the mental health or substance abuse disorder, you’ll be in a better position to become aware of the severity of the disorder by recognizing and monitoring its symptoms.
Communication is an essential component of any relationship, but when it comes to being unconditionally supportive, it’s more important to be a good listener. So encourage your afflicted loved one to share his or her thoughts and emotions, and really listen to what he or she is saying.
There are many ways to be encouraging, and the best way of encouraging your loved one will depend on the unique situation. You might find simple positive reinforcement — “I’m very proud of the effort you’ve put into your recovery” — to be the most effective type of encouragement.
Recovery isn’t always easy. Particularly after an extended period of severe symptoms, the afflicted individual might find himself or herself unable to drive to treatment. Facilitation refers to what you can do to help make treatment and recovery more attainable, which can include something as simple as driving your loved one to and from therapy sessions.
Choose Guardians Intervention for Your Mental Wellness Needs
Family support is just one of many important elements to recovery. If you’d like to learn more about family support or one of the many recovery resources we offer, call Guardians Intervention today.