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Getting Proactive With Severe Mental Illness

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A few weeks ago, I drove up to Los Angeles to see an old sorority sister. We hadn’t hung out in a couple of years, nor had we done the greatest job of keeping up with one another. Still, I was excited to spend time and reminisce with an old friend.  But things weren’t quite as I expected once reaching the city’s limits.

My friend, I soon discovered, was not the same person I remembered – mentally or emotionally.  Greeting me in her PJ’s, I learned she hadn’t held down a job in weeks and was spending her days making vision boards and salt scrubs. Her thoughts were all over the place; she had extreme, irrational paranoia and it was nearly impossible to hold conversations without her zoning out seconds later.

When I left L.A., I was mentally exhausted, yet concerned about her well-being. Did I do and say all the right things to motivate her in getting help?  

Mental Illness Facts

Mental illnesses create mild to severe disturbances in a person’s thinking, feeling and behavior. Such conditions may affect someone’s ability to relate to others and function each day. There are numerous signs and symptoms of mental illness – some which are more easily observed than others.  

Warning signs may include:

  • Confused thinking (not knowing where they are, why they are there, or who they are with)
  • Prolonged depression/sadness
  • Ongoing social withdrawal
  • Excessive and irrational fears, sometimes to the level of paranoia
  • Delusions (believing in things that are not real)
  • Inability to cope with daily life

How Can We Help?

If you are worried about a loved one, there are several ways to be proactive. First, you might consider hiring a mental health professional to discuss the basics of the problem and the various options for treatment. You could also express concern and support for your friend or family member and be responsive when speaking about their mental health. Simply being compassionate and empathetic about their illness will go a long way. Finally, continue to include him or her in your plans, even if they repeatedly resist your invitations. This helps them to avoid feeling alienated or bad about themselves.

The good news is that recovery is possible – for my friend and for you or your loved one. The key is to seek treatment early and to play a strong role in your own individual recovery process.  



Image Courtesy of iStock

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