‘She don dey craze’….. We hear statements like this all the time; they are used loosely and sometimes meant to be a joke. However, it is all fun and games until you actually have to visit a loved one in a psychiatric hospital.
When you are involved, you’d realise how much of a serious issue mental health and mental illness is, and you’d even get upset when other people use those sneering words you once used loosely. Why? Because it now hits close to home.
Visiting a loved one in a psychiatric hospital or watching them undergo a situation you do not understand can be mind-boggling and draining. You will ask questions, some will be rhetorical, some will have answers, but you will most likely find yourself muttering all the prayers you can and wishing it will all go away.
Here is the hard truth. You cannot wish it all away, but there are things you can do to support your friend and loved ones if they are admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
WHAT TO DO FOR YOUR LOVED ONE IN A PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL
Just before a speaker commenced her speech at the just concluded TEDx Lagos; the picture of 8 smiling adults came up on her slide. I assumed she was going to talk about positivity, but the first thing she said when she climbed the stage was – This is what depression looks like.
You will agree with me that we sometimes hide our deepest hurt by putting up a façade, and this is why it is important to be mindful. The person sitting next to you could be going through something difficult, but if you are privy about the mental health status of your friend or loved one, you should consider doing some of the things mentioned below to show support and help them feel better:
- Visit them at the hospital: Your presence will play a huge role in uplifting your friend’s mood. No one likes to be in a hospital for too long, alone and without fun activity. Show up with enough cheer for you and your loved one, bring items they like and maybe games you both could play during visiting hours. Do not treat them any differently or allow them to feel like they have a contagious illness.
- Talk to their doctor: You may not be able to get very confidential information, but always ask relevant questions that will help you mildly understand what your friend is going through. This will also help know you how to support your loved one better. Ask the doctor/nurses for a list of things you can bring to enable your loved one comfortable in the hospital.
- Listen and use the right words: A great way to support a loved one is by saying encouraging words, reminding them of their best attributes and making them feel genuinely happy. As much as you also want to positive, try to listen more, let them know you love them and that you will always be there for them. Remember, no one just snaps out of a mental illness.
- Be patient: Understand that there will be off days. If you show up at the hospital and your loved one is not being receptive, try to be patient. Respect his or her mood and do not get into a sour mood as well. Always maintain stable and positive energy, free of judgement or stigma.
- Advocate for your loved one: It is sad that a lot of people still do not behave appropriately towards individuals living with a mental disorder. Be their voice when they cannot defend themselves, do not separate yourself from them. Be part of the people who are mentally aware, speaking against the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
WHAT TO DO FOR YOURSELF
It also hits you hard when you have a friend or loved one living with a mental illness. If you have to fully support your loved one and you are not equipped with the right amount of knowledge, you may find yourself breaking down a lot.
As much as your friend requires support, you also need to be in the right frame of mind to offer your full support.
Here are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Be mentally aware: Increase your literacy of mental health and amplify the message. Be interested in mental health advocacy, teach people how to respond to mental health-related issues and refer them to professionals that can help or organisations like MANI. Even if you can’t be a full advocate, try to find information on your loved one’s diagnosis, and how to also take care of your mental health.
- Speak to a counsellor: If you have never experienced a mental health issue, you may not understand what your loved one is going through. We are human and it is possible to get overwhelmed when caring for your loved one who is admitted in the psychiatric hospital. To ensure you are fit to keep supporting your mentally ill friend, speak with a counsellor once you begin to feel unhappy or feel the need to unburden. It is important to speak up immediately without holding back your feelings.
- Join a support group: It helps when you know that you are not going through certain things alone. A support group literally gives you the support you require in terms of learning from other people’s experiences. It’s a safe place to ask questions and get relatable answers.
- Avoid negative thoughts: Supporting a loved one who is admitted in a psychiatric hospital can be challenging and one might be tempted to get discouraged. Clearly, you will have to readjust your routine and might miss out on certain things. This may also start to rile you up, so when you start to feel this way, ensure you have the right people around you to help you retain the right mindset.
- Practise self-care: As much as you will have to spend a lot of time looking out for your loved one and making sure they are fine; you will also have to take your own health a lot more seriously. Sleep well, exercise, eat healthy, and spend time doing the things that make you happy. Remember, you cannot serve from an empty cup.
Living with a mental health illness or being a caregiver can be very challenging, and sometimes, you may feel like you are not doing enough or you are being under-appreciated.
It is important to note that your expectations may not also occur as fast as you wish, but always have the mind-set that things will fall in place, and you’re doing the best you can. If you need any help, you can talk to us in MANI