Helping Your Child Who’s Struggling With A Mental Illness

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Before starting this post I just want to say I’m in no way a professional. If your child or anybody you know is struggling with a ,mental disorder please contact your GP. This blog is from my experience of fighting with an Eating Disorder, Depression, OCD and Anxiety. 
If you’ve never clicked on my blog before, hello 🙂 I’m Casy and I’m 16 years old, and have had my fair share of problems with mental health. I struggled with severe mental illnesses, I’m on medication for a few and have gone through a lot but I’ve started this blog in hope that my experiences will help others. My parents are brilliant with my disorders. They are understanding, but often challenging which is what I need. But trust me, it’s taken a good few years for that to happen. In the beginning of all this they were confused, angry, feeling helpless and undoubtedly guilty. I wasn’t a big help, because I never wanted to talk about it. It didn’t make any sense to me, so I wasn’t able to tell the, a lot. The mental health services weren’t a great help either. They were extremely slow, and I actually waited over five months to be seen by somebody when I was at my absolute worst, out of school and completely depressed. In that period, they were stuck feeling trapped by my OCD, not allowing them to go certain places, wear certain things, invite certain people over. If you would like to know a bit more about my diagnoses please click here or here because I don’t want to make this post super long. 

It was as difficult for them as it was for me. They often blamed themselves for not realising sooner and preventing everything, and they often got angry at me for not ‘trying’ to get over these illnesses. From a lot of experience I have put together what I wish my parents had known, and what they wish they had know at the start of this. 

This is Nobody’s Fault : People tend to look for somebody or something to blame. And of course, mental disorders often have a background, but they are illnesses. Don’t ever think that this is your fault.

It’s A lot Worse Living With The Disorder: Of course, trying to help somebody struggling is often physically and mentally draining. It feels like they have lost ten years and are a child again, needing constant supervision and looking after. Please try and remember that it as a lot worse living with this going on in your head. They cannot help the way they are feeling or acting, and from a lot of experience, struggling with any mental illness is absolute hell.

They Can’t Just ‘Snap Out Of It’: They will most likely have good days and bad days. But just because they have had good days, does not mean that they decided when they feel down or anxious. My parents us used to believe quite strongly that I had power over all of this. They believed that I chose when I wanted to be sad and upset, when I needed attention and when I couldn’t go out of the house. This is never the case. 

Try and notice the positives: Living with somebody suffering it is extremely simple to point out everything that is negative. A huge thing that helped people around me was paying more attention to tiny little successes.

Fresh air is great, but doesn’t cure everything: On my worst days, I would jus want to say inside and not move a lot to be honest. Fresh air and exercise is an incredible mood booster, but sometimes, they are probably having a really bad day and just need looking after. Try and make them comfortable, bring them water to stay hydrated and try to make sure they eat. Watch a TV show together, or just keep checking in on them maybe cook them their favourite meal or snack. I would always crave this sort of thing on a bad day.

Spend time with them: Like I’ve said, often they will probably want to be left alone. Try and spend as much time as possible with them. Sometimes on their worst days, treating their disorder as a physical illness can help (of course they are not anywhere near the same thing but you get the idea). Sit with them, and just read while they’re on their phone. Chat to them about a few things. Spending more time with them will mean you’re able to notice things that trigger them, and things they struggle with. It also helps decrease that whole lonely part of struggling with any mental illness, but particularly depression.

Encourage them to try group therapies: When waiting for a referral to a mental health unit, which as I’ve said, can take a lot longer than it’s supposed to, it can be a really good idea to try and get your child to join a group therapy session. These sessions are usually really relaxed, and there is no standing up and talking about your struggles and issues (unless you want to in which case it would be totally accepted). They can be a fabulous thing for a young person to help them realise that they aren’t alone and usually people can exchange social medias etc. so they always have somebody who understands to talk to.

Mental health should always be put before education: This is something more and more people are starting to realise, as mental health is being extremely urgently discussed. If school is causing an issue for your child, and they are struggling with their mental health, forcing them into school every day and hoping it will all just ‘go away’ only prolongs those issues. School is the number one factor for anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses. If it is starting to be a major concern, talk to your local GP, and they can give mental health leave in extreme circumstances, for example, if your child has to be physically taken to school, and uses threats to try and avoid attending school. If they are still in school, try and make it clear you dont care about their grades, as long as they are happy. Don’t pressure them to complete work, and explain to the school what is going on. 

Try and remove all sharp objects etc and any thing else that could potentially be used for self harm: This is a harsh reality, but self harm is extremely common in teens and if there are signs of scarring on wrists and thighs (try to notice if they often wear long sleeves) think about taking away all objects that could be used to self harm. If you think there is any risk to your child, contact your GP straight away. If they are threatening to harm themselves, or end their lives, seek immediate medical advice. In many cases it is often best to take them to A&E. Remove objects such as sharpeners, razors, scissors, eyelash clamps and broken mirrors. 

Understand that your child is unwell: Your loved one is not going to be this way forever. It can be extremely difficult to have to see your child in such a dark place. Please remember that they are ill, and that they will get better. Treat them just as you did before, but be aware of changes in behaviours and phobias. If you notice rituals in your child (often signs of OCD and/or anxiety) such as repeated hand washing, repeated checking, having to repeat simple tasks multiple times or constantly asking for reassurance, try and talk to them about the thought process behind these compulsions. Sometime it is easier to ask them to go away and draw or write it out (particularly if they are younger or struggle to talk about how they are feeling like me). Let them know that if you understand the thought process it is easier for you to help them. Remind them that even though those rituals help in the moment they are not helping in the long run.

Those are my best pieces of advice for parents or anybody who has somebody close to them who is struggling with a mental illness. I really hope they help! Please feel free to message me if you want any further advice. My email is casylilee@gmail.com and I check them daily. My twitter is @recovering_ed and my Instagram is @CasyLile if you would like to privately message I would love to help. I wish the best for you and your loved one in beating their disorder and trust me it is possible 🙂 
Casy x

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