7 Ways to Help your Adult Child if they Have a Mental Illness, By Guest Blogger Marcus Clarke

7 Ways to Help your Adult Child if they Have a Mental Illness, By Marcus Clarke

Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.

Whenever a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, it can take its toll on those closest to them.  When you add in the complexity of a parent’s relationship with their adult child, it can become even more difficult to navigate.  However, family support is vital for recovery, so here are 7 great ways that you can help your adult child if they have a mental illness:

  1. Listen

Although this seems as simple as hearing what they have to say, it isn’t.  There’s a difference between letting someone speak and actually listening.  You must lend a thoughtful and sympathetic ear without judgement, without interruption, and without unsolicited advice.  Listening to someone means you aren’t second-guessing what they say just because it seems irrational to you. You may not understand what your child is experiencing but they need you to listen.

  1. Try to get yourself on the same page

One of the most frustrating aspects of helping anyone with a mental illness is that you may feel as if you’re on completely different wavelengths.  You have one idea of what the world is like, and they have another.  This can lead to a lot of resentment and arguments because you simply aren’t pulling in the same direction.  It’s paramount that you and your child have the same view of the mental illness and what can be done to improve it.

  1. Don’t give them orders or tell them what to do

Young and adolescent children can be resistant to orders – adult children will find them particularly demeaning and insulting.  Although they’ll always be your child, you must accept that they’re autonomous adults too, and they won’t want to be treated like a baby.  Set parameters and boundaries the same way you would with your partner – as a team!

  1. Work together

If you have a loved one with a mental illness, you’ll know that it’s not solely ‘their illness’.  It’s yours too.  When we form close and emotional connections with people, their problems become ours, and we face them together.  This is what you must do for an adult child with a mental illness.  You must set attainable goals, work collaboratively, and fight it together.

  1. Make sure your support is unwavering

Even though things may be tough at times, you must always be available to help.  Even if they’ve insulted you or done something completely uncalled for, you must realise that it’s most likely because of their illness and not necessarily personal.  Ensure that it’s always possible (and easy) to contact you, and that your door is always open.

  1. Specifically ask what you can do to make them feel safe

Due to the confusion that generally surrounds mental illness, the sufferer will often feel isolated and unsafe.  They might not have even thought about it themselves, but there are probably a handful of things you could do to make them feel more comfortable and safe.  Once you ask, they’ll be able to think about it and tell you, and this will also encourage them to brainstorm possible solutions to their problems.

  1. Accept that you might not be able to help

This can be quite difficult to accept.  As a parent, you’ll always feel like it’s your job to protect, help, and look out for your children forever.  The reality is that mental illnesses are complex, and it may be possible that there’s simply nothing you can personally do to help ease their mental anguish.  You may be the enemy (for a variety of reasons), and although that will be very hard to take, it’s ok.  Accepting it will mean that you can guide them towards someone who can help them more efficiently.

If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “START” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.

The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.