Gateway Gazette

Do You Know How To Help Someone With A Mental Illness?

By Tom Barthel

This is for any family wanting to help a mentally ill person start to recover. I have been going through an experience this last month with a couple of full grown adults. It reminds me of how important it is to approach any mental illness with this certain style. BLACK AND WHITE is the method for dealing with a mentally ill person, adult or child.

This Is What Happens With Every Mental Illness:

1.       A foreign set of emotions and thoughts start to enter the person’s brain. The person confuses these thoughts with their own “normal thoughts and emotions”.

2.       Not knowing the difference between these “foreign thoughts” and their “normal thoughts” the person responds to them by listening to what these thoughts say, feeling what these thoughts feel. Now the person reacts to these “foreign thoughts and emotions” and has somewhat irrational behaviour mixed in with their normal behaviour. When people try to help, the troubled person can accomplish some logical things for themselves, but completely miss the “point” in another area of taking care of their lives.

·         Ex: Understand they are ill and go to see a counselor, and then come home and throw out all their bills because the government is a conspiracy (paranoia)

·         Ex: Cooking food and going to a job to earn money, and then coming home sleeping all the time believing that life has no hope and nobody loves them (depression).

3.       This leads mentally ill people into endless circles. The world of decision making becomes very “gray” and inconclusive.

4.       That is because they don’t realize there are two different trains of thoughts going through their mind.

5.       Mentally ill thoughts are very persuasive and when a person chases them in circles they will be chasing them for 20 years, it will never stop.

These thoughts are so real that the person is usually unaware that they are mentally ill.

This will last forever unless people around them cause a BLACK AND WHITE environment. This is how to help mentally ill people. Get rid of the gray in your communication with them.

I had a female friend whose spouse left her suddenly. She was devastated and a depression and anxiety psychosis set in. She was demonstrating an inability to take care of herself and suicide was a risk. She kept trying to contact him to talk even though he had a restraining order against her and the police reminded her of this every week. Every day I told this one person “your husband has left you, he is not coming back, your health is now your first priority, you have to get some sleep and start eating – Do you understand?!!!“.

I repeated that to this lady over 100 times in one month, over 10 times a day on some days. She even asked me to stop but I didn’t. I could see it in her eyes that she knew her husband had left her, but she didn’t get it. Most people aren’t that clear or give up after 5 times of repeating themselves, afraid to make a scene. I am not afraid. She is also out of her psychosis now and able to take care of the basics and provide for her health. After doing some necessary self improvement and therapy while learning to be blunt with herself, she is in the clear and doing just fine.

No drugs can offer that service, and neither can doctors. Doctors are only there for an hour at best, friends and family are there all the time. Friends and family are the key to helping a mentally ill person. Are you that kind of friend or family member?

Where some people get confused is that they think you have to be nasty to be “black and white” with someone. This isn’t true. You can be compassionate, and loving and kind. The key is to be “black and white” and speak with clear language. Help them sort through the fog. In my weekend seminars for parents I offer an in depth explanation of this and how it can be used to pull some people out of their psychosis, along with other strategies involving medication.

For more on Tom Barthel and Street Smart Counselling visit the website.

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