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What Are Coping Skills and A Crisis Plan For Your Loved One With Mental Illness?

Updated on July 5, 2012

You may be experiencing a lot of pain, doubt, and worry if you have recently found your loved one to be hospitalized or diagnosed with some form of mental illness (depression, bipolar, schzophrenia, or other).

Speaking as one who has been down this road as a person suffering from this disease, let me tell you that from my perspective, this is very likely how your loved one should and would want to be treated for this disease with either or all: talk therapy, medicine-natural or prescription. And of course be treated with understanding and supportive kindness. (Note: your loved one will NOT listen to your suggestions, not likely, if you try and force your opinions, or tell them things like "You are fat from your meds", "Get off your pills, you're not sick" or "You're not the person I used to know". Instead, try methods like, "I love you." Try looking up things on about how mental illness works so you give them an educated comment or suggestion and they will be more likely to listen and receive even more help.

Not every person who gets sick has loved ones who care or make the effort to understand what to do and how help and be supportive, so give yourself a pat on the back if you are reading this.

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What to do? Creating a preventive (crisis) plan

It is important to note, that your loved one is most likely confused themselves, and to think of them as someone who may have trouble making descisions for themselves (not in all cases) but that they need some kind of guidance, and above all, support and love.

How can I be supportive?

Listen above all to what they are feeling. Encourage them to talk about it and try to go to family therapy with them to find out how to be more helpful.

Show them your love and care by maintaining affection, and spending time with them. Tell them everything will be ok. (Some just don't know that love is the main ingredient to getting better.)

What should I do to help?

It's very likely that your loved one does not know anything about this disease as you probably don't either. One of the key things you can do, is to make sure their psychiatrist or doctor is treating them well, and helping them by offering talk therapy and in some cases medication. Watch out as to what medicine they are given, sure it is important to let them find help, but some medicines your doctor will not tell you can have awful side effects, so I advise you to research these medicines on before agreeing to them.

There is the chance your loved one will refuse contact with you. In this case, accept it, but if you want to be helpful be gentle. Those affected with anxiety and depression are often very weak at this time and need to be treated gently or even with "kid gloves".

Know that in time, perhaps a few months even, if your loved one finds the right medicine or care, they will be feeling better. Do not give up on them. They are very likely to do well on their own, but believe me, it makes a world of difference to have family support.

Read more. I have written lots of hubs on stigma, what it feels like to experience these types of emotional illnesses. Encourage them to write out their feelings and develop coping skills. Also make an "emergency plan" and above all, do not partake in stigma or in letting your loved one feel bad about themselves because they have a physical illness (lack of serotin in the brain), that many people still don't understand and treat who they do not know or understand often unkind or cruelly.

What is a Preventive Plan?

It is also called a Crisis Plan but a real crisis plan is how to prevent emergencies like need for hospitalization or suicide attempts. (This will be futher discussed below. Let's focus on preventive measures as in trying to prevent anxiety attacks or depession) This plan is not always initiated right away by doctors or therapists, but it very useful. Get a pen and paper and sit down with whoever is feeling emotionally ill. Ask them what triggers them to have either an anxiety attack, or deep depression and write down those things. It may be for example that they feel an anxiety attack coming on when they are in a car with people and feel "trapped" as if they can't get out if they want to, or want to change the radio station and can't or something like that. It could also be for example being in for dlarge crowds or whatever causes them anxiety. As for the triggers epression, perhaps they may feel they are getting deeply depressed by the weather--many get depressed in the winter when it's darker out earlier, or perhaps they missed their medication that day, or had a stressful time at the family Thanksgiving Dinner.

Coping Skills

You can get a huge list of coping skills from your therapist or doctor. If not, look it up online. Some coping skills can be:

  • prayer
  • writing in a journal
  • walking or exercising
  • talking with a friend

Feeling Overwhelmed?

Don't. Or at least know that you can take this one day at a time, and however difficult it is to see your loved one suffer, that your strenght and support is vital and so meaningful. As humans we really all need one basic thing most: LOVE. Take it one day at a time :)

Crisis Plan..........

A real crisis plan just so you know is to KNOW WHAT WILL TRIGGER SOMEONE TO BE SUICIDAL. There are definitely signs and again, you need to grab a pen and paper --this is way more important than the other plan above, which I actually designed-- Now sit down with your loved one.......or you, your loved one, and therapist, Now, ask your loved one WHAT MAKES THEM FEEL SUICIDAL OR "TRIGGER" THEM. Make a list....It may be things for example, like.........Feeling alone and isolated, Not taking their medications, or whatever it is. AFTER, Make sure you make copies of that list and give them to:

  • therapist
  • family members
  • friends of loved one
  • contacts of loved one--neighbors (if close)
  • doctor
  • whoever comes in contact such as social worker

Now, you've done a great job!!

Keep it up, and everything will get better in time. You are a great person for supporting your loved one or friend. Also, be there for them whenever, 24/7 or make sure they always can call you or someone :)


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    • schoolgirlforreal profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      thanks so much:) I hope so too, I love to help if I can. God bless

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 

      8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      This hub is fabulous, SGFR! I hope people who are suffering from mental illness find your words here.

      Great job!

    • schoolgirlforreal profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Winsome :) Wow, you read it on your blackberry? How cool! I wasn't aware of that..nice. Yeah listing triggers, could be good for quitting smoking too ,huh? Awesome, I'm glad you liked it.

    • Winsome profile image


      8 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

      Hi SGFR, well done. I read it on my Blackberry when it first came out and am just now getting to your comment box. I like your idea of listing the triggers. We all could use that idea for triggers for our own things we want to avoid like overeating, anger etc. =:)

    • schoolgirlforreal profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thank you for reading and spreading this around. Blessings to you and your loved ones!

    • richtwf profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this very useful hub. We all understand very well physical illness but when it comes to mental illness, it's something which has in the past been badly stigmatised and as such can have a very significant and drastic effect upon anyone who has a mental problem.

      Communication, understanding, patience and most importantly - love - are what we need to help those closest and dearest to manage their lives as best they can otherwise their lives will continue to be one of unnecessary misery.

      Thanks for sharing and God bless!


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