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Standing Strong: How to Support Your Loved One Facing Mental Health and Addiction Issues

When someone we love is struggling with an addiction or mental health diagnosis, the path can become particularly stormy. As loved ones, we play a critical role in their support system, yet it's crucial to balance our desire to help with attention to our own wellbeing. Here are thoughtful approaches to effectively support your loved one while emphasizing the importance of self-care.

  • Ensure your loved one has support through mental health services such as therapy or support groups.

  • Validate their feelings when they open up to you. Don’t tell them how they “should or shouldn’t” feel.

  • When they’re upset, ask what you can do to support them.   

  • Remain respectful of your loved one’s situation and try to avoid getting angry or accusing them of not trying to get better.

  • Set healthy boundaries about what you can and can’t do and what you can and can’t tolerate in their behavior.

  • Avoid using their love for you as a negotiating tool such as asking them to quit or get better because “they love you” and instead ask how you can help.

  • Find ways for your loved one to feel more useful and productive such as suggesting activities that help facilitate independence.

Prioritize Your Self-Care

Supporting someone through such intense issues can be draining and requires patience and understanding. Neglecting yourself for the sake of someone else will lead to irritability and burnout. Focusing on your own self-care will help maintain your health and happiness. Use these tips to help keep things in perspective:

  • Accept that your own changing feelings and emotions are okay, regardless of what they might be.

  • Avoid isolating yourself and continue to reach out to family and friends for support and socialization.

  • Learn more about mental illness and/or addiction as a disease so you understand what your loved one is experiencing and know what to expect.

  • Take time for yourself to have fun and relax to maintain your physical and emotional strength. This may include a meditation practice, exercise routine or focusing on a hobby.

  • Be aware of your own substance use and seek counseling as soon as possible if you are at risk of substance abuse.

  • Maintain established boundaries and learn to identify unhelpful enabling behavior.

Ask for Help

As you commit to supporting a loved one through their struggles with addiction or mental health challenges, it's essential to prioritize your own well-being. Being proactive about your mental health care is crucial to avoid burnout and reduce the risk of developing mental health issues yourself. Seeking counseling to maintain your mental well-being can provide you with effective coping strategies, improving your ability to support your loved one while also enhancing your overall life satisfaction.

If you are looking for support in this area, Intuit Counseling and Wellness Services encourages you to reach out. All of our clinicians are trained in co-occurring addiction and mental health.


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