Stand by Me: How to Help Someone Struggling with Behavioral Health Challenges
“Behavioral health” refers to both psychiatric and substance abuse, and people with these health issues suffer from either or both. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of those with a mental health disorder don’t seek help, typically because of the stigma associated with these issues. If you have a family member or friend who has a behavioral health disorder, you can play an important role by supporting and standing by them throughout their recovery.
Many of the signs of mental illness and substance abuse are the same. They include:
- Avoiding people and normal activities
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Weight loss or gain
- Decreased energy
- Inability to perform daily tasks
- Loss of interest in grooming
- Feeling helpless or numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Fighting with loved ones
- Experiencing severe mood swings
- Having persistent thoughts
- Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
- Thinking of harming themselves, or others
How to Support a Loved One with Behavioral Health Problems
If a friend or family member is showing signs of mental illness or addiction, you can offer support by:
- Treating them with respect, compassion, and empathy
- Reminding them that mental health and abuse problems can be treated
- Expressing your concern and desire to get them help
- Offering to help your loved one with everyday tasks
- Including your loved one in your plans, even if they reject your invitations
- Educating family members and friends so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate
- Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help
Starting the Conversation
Talking to your loved one about behavioral health problems can be difficult. Here are some ways you can start the conversation so you can begin the process of helping them:
- I’ve noticed that you are going through a difficult time. Would you allow me to help you get help?
- I care about you and I am worried about you. Can we talk about what’s going on? If you aren’t comfortable talking with me, who would you rather talk to about it?
- I’m concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?
One of the most important ways you can help a loved one is by connecting them to professionals that can help with their treatment and recovery.
Lake Haven Behavioral Health Center at Henry County Medical Center offers individualized care in a warm, caring atmosphere. To make a referral or learn more about the psychiatric services and programs, call 731 644-8420 or 1-800-489-1203.
- Call 911 if the situation is potentially life-threatening.
- Reach out using a toll-free, confidential hotline with trained resources available 24/7, 365 days a year to help with behavioral health issues:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress for you or your loved one.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (1-800-662-HELP) is a free referral service that can help you find the resources you need for recovery.
A Fresh Start: Creating a Wellness Plan That Works for You
If you’re looking to make some changes in your life, a wellness plan may be just what the doctor ordered. A wellness plan helps you live a healthy life and increase your personal sense of well-being. By assessing your current health status, deciding what you’d like to change and establishing specific goals to work towards, you increase the likelihood your vision becomes a reality.
Many people make nutrition and physical fitness the cornerstone of their personal wellness plan. After all, if you’re not physically healthy, it’s challenging to improve other areas of your life. However, your wellness plan may also include goals to increase your social network, find a spiritual home, expand your intellectual pursuits or secure your financial future. When you identify what’s important to you and then write it down, you are making a commitment to yourself.
Eight Dimensions of Wellness
Here are eight dimensions of personal wellness. They are not all equally important, and everyone will prioritize them differently. Take a few minutes to reflect and use the space to jot a few notes about your strengths and weaknesses in each area. What would you like to change? Are there other areas of wellness that are important to you? Jot down some specific goals that will go into YOUR personal wellness plan.
- Social wellness
- Emotional wellness
- Intellectual wellness
- Spiritual wellness
- Financial Wellness
- Physical wellness
- Vocational wellness
- Other areas of wellness important to you:
To Help You Create a Wellness Plan that Works for You:
- Determine YOUR long-term wellness goals.
Examples: Lose 25 pounds, run a marathon, quit smoking, prepare to get pregnant
- Pick one long-term goal and set a few short-term goals to help you reach it.
Example: Lose 3-4 pounds a month until you reach 25 pounds
- Pick one short-term goal and set a SMART goal.
Example: Pack a healthy lunch 3X/week for the next three months
Your plan may include goals for physical fitness, weight loss, stress management, making stronger social connections, attending to your spiritual growth, being more financially secure, etc.
Four Stages of Changing a Health Behavior
1. Contemplation: I’m thinking about it; make a list of pros and cons.
2. Preparation: I’ve made up my mind; identify potential roadblocks and brainstorm solutions.
3. Action: I’ve started to make changes; track your behaviors, overcome roadblocks, reward yourself.
4. Maintenance: I have a new routine.
If you would like help getting started creating a wellness plan that works for you, call our Find Line for referral information at 800-246-2508 or check out our HCMC’s online provider directory.