Mental illness: You do care

Psychology Today recently added a post about dealing with the mental illness of a loved one. This is a challenging task, it can be draining, tiring, overwhelming and some negative emotions can happen on both sides. You care but it hurts. The article noted on some important points to consider when communicating and showing that you care.

First when dealing with mental illness it is hard to understand or see since it is so invisible to those that are not there. Some understanding of what the person is going through is imperative.  The author noted on a technique to use from Bon Dobbs of Anything To Stop The Pain, a website dedicated to borderline personality disorder. The technique is described with the acronym I-AM-MAD:

I: Identify the emotions. As you listen to your loved one talk, note the emotion words they are using. Reply with statements that use the same emotion words.

A: Ask a validating question. Open-ended questions (as in, those that require more than a “yes” or “no”) show that you are listening and want to know more.

M: Make a validating statement about your loved one’s pain. Having listened carefully to your loved one’s answer to your question, say something that shows you were listening and care about their feelings.

M: Make a normalizing statement about your loved one’s pain.

A: Ask how you can be helpful to your loved one. Keep it short and sweet: “What can I do to help?” (However, see the next step!)

D: Do not solve the problem for your loved one.  Since self-esteem is often an issue for people with mental illnesses, being a supportive listener, instead of a hero, can help your loved one think about ways to solve not only the immediate problem, but future issues as well.


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