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What to do when a family member has a psychiatric illness or disorder?

Updated on October 16, 2015

What are some of the ways you could help support a friend or family member who might be displaying symptoms or behaviors that could be identified as a psychiatric illness or disorder? Discuss how you think services in your area would be able to help them. What are some of the risks involved in doing so?

There are many different ways that I could help support a friend or family member who might be displaying symptoms or behaviors that could be identified as a psychiatric illness or disorder; I would have to consider the person’s personality when deciding how to help them. If the family member or friend has a large sense of pride it might be difficult to help him or her because they would not want to ask for or accept help. I would begin to assist my friend or family member by finding out what the person knows about their condition, what type of help they are getting, and expressing my support to them (Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems, n.d.). If my friend or family member was not getting treatment for their psychiatric illness or disorder, I would first research the condition and then suggest possible treatments, doctors, or psychologists. I would also encourage my friend or family member to remain in treatment until the symptoms begin to lift (Hales, 2013, p. 62).
There are many services in my general area which could assist my friend or family member with his or her psychiatric illness or disorder. There are groups that meet three times a week where my friend or family member could meet with other people who share the same psychiatric illness or disorder; this would help them to feel like they are not alone in their struggles. There are also treatment facilities where those suffering from a psychiatric illness or disorder can stay to get full care until their symptoms begin to lift. Even with the numerous options for assisting a person suffering from a psychiatric illness or disorder, there are still some risks in being the person to suggest treatment. If the friend or family member is not at the point where they will accept help then they might resent the person who suggests treatment options to them. If the person does not believe that they have a psychiatric illness or disorder, and a friend or family member tries to help them or get them help, it might cause a fracture in the friendship or family relationship and it could make the more likely to not seek help or treatment. The risks in getting a friend or family member the help they need with their psychiatric illness or disorder tends to depend on the personality of the person and their personal beliefs about their own mental state.


Hales, D. (2013). Invitation to Health: Live It Now (16th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2015, from


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    • misty103 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Hello Venkatachari M,

      I really appreciate it that you took the time to comment on my hub and share your story. I always love it when people share their own experiences on my hubs as it provides a wider view angle and it helps people to know that they are not alone in their struggles. I hope that you son realizes that the doctors do want to help him and he gets the help he needs.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      3 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      It becomes much difficult in many cases to guide or help them. They have some preset mentality towards doctors or advisers. I had to deal with my own wife and now with my son. My wife suffered from depression and illusions. So, one should first gain confidence for offering treatment. She used to doubt everybody and only after lot of patience and caress, she got treatment and cured to a large extent. She was also a lady of great determination and strived herself to get out of that disease by engaging in social activities like stitching and knitting for neighbours and helping them in their family problems, etc. My son is somewhat stubborn and does not cooperate with advices. He thinks his own way and says doctors are not good. They only look for money and elaborate the disease giving dosages without proper diagnosis.

    • misty103 profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Hi Sarah Kessler,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my hub, I truly appreciate the fact that you shared your story with me and my readers. I am glad that you are doing better since you found out about your condition. While I do not think I have any mental conditions I did recently find out about a physical condition, EDS, it made me feel so much better to know that I had an actual condition and that there was a reason that I was sore and achy a lot of the time and that it was not just in my head.

    • Sarah Kessler profile image

      Sarah B 

      3 years ago from Klamath Falls

      Great overview of the possible upsides and downsides here!

      When I personally realized I had a disorder, it was actually suggested to me by my then-husband. I had been crying all day, really, really suffering, and I was to the point that I knew I needed help, but I didn't know what kind. He simply came into the room where I had been distressing all day, said, "You know, you might really have bipolar II or borderline personality disorder," while giving me a hug. At this time, I was receptive to a hug, but other times during the day, I had been angry with him, and wouldn't have felt like he was on my side in that way. It was all about timing.

      That was the first time I'd heard of borderline personality disorder. That night or the next day, I Googled bipolar II--I was heartened to think that it could be this, because then I'd have something that was easily understood by a psychiatrist, and I was terrified (obsessed) that it might be something much, much, much worse. The symptoms of bipolar II fit, but didn't cover my full range of issues. Then I looked at borderline personality disorder. All of a sudden, it was like a huge, refreshing breeze rushed over me, and I felt happy for the first time in months, at least.

      If he hadn't simply thrown those words out there, "borderline personality disorder," I really may never have discovered what was going on with me. It only took me about 8 months to go into "remission" from the disorder.

      The first thing that helped me was an online support group. Talking to people with BPD, who were doing all right, and some who weren't, was comforting. As I started recovering, I started helping others recover, which helped me recover even more.

      Anyway! It's important to think about WHY you want to tell them they might have a disorder. Are they seeking help? If not, you absolutely can't force it on them. They won't go for it if they're not in an "I need help" kind of place. It may be that they have a disorder and it doesn't bother them. In that case, if it only bothers the people around them, you simply have to learn how to adapt in the relationship, rather than expecting them to change in order to better themselves or the relationship.


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