Family & Community Health & Wellness Lifestyle

3 ways to support a loved one with mental illness

Dr. Randall White delves into how family members and mental health professionals can work together to support a person with serious mental illness. (Photo courtesy of BC Schizophrenia Society)
Written by CMN News Service

Faced with a loved one with mental illness, family members are often searching for what they can do to help and support their loved ones.

Fortunately, Dr. Randall White, medical director of Vancouver Community Mental Health Services, has some tips for people in this position.

Find out what medical information you can access. Generally, patients have a right to keep their medical information private. But if a person becomes certified under the B.C. Provincial Mental Health Act, then medical staff can typically share some details with family members to assist in treatment.

Communicate that you care and want to help. Let your loved one know that you’re there to be supportive. Keep conversations positive. Sometimes a person may act in a way that compromises their relationships, but it’s important to continue to let them know that you are there to help. Families are a crucial support in helping a patient succeed in maintaining their wellness.

Be willing to set boundaries. At some point your loved one may begin to exhibit behaviours or thoughts that are too challenging for you to manage or understand. You can still let them know you care, but setting boundaries is important in helping you continue providing support. Find ways to build your own support system through supportive family members, mental health counselling or a local support group. By helping yourself, you can better help your loved one.

B.C. Schizophrenia Society provides tips, courses, workshops and support to family members as they determine the best way to help their loved ones. Find out more at

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