How to communicate with loved ones who suffer from mental disorders?

According to the WHO, nearly 1 billion people in the world suffer from mental disorders. Now, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is especially difficult for them. “We are already seeing the negative impact of the pandemic on the mental health of the population, and this situation is expected to only get worse,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom *. October 10, International Day for Mental Health, we want to remind you that taking care of your mental health is important for each of us.

Some experienced isolation with loved ones suffering from mental illness, and this was not easy for them. We often feel embarrassed to talk openly about our friends or family members suffering from mental health problems, and for good reason. So it turns out that stigmatization affects not only those who are faced with diseases of the soul, but also their environment. Social stereotypes associated with mental disorders, which say that they are ashamed to have, negatively affect the quality of life of those who are in a similar state and those who are trying to help them.

Relatively few people in the world can use the services of psychotherapists and psychiatrists. According to the WHO, more than 75% of people with mental and neurological disorders in low- and middle-income countries do not receive the treatment they need at all. And in this unbearable situation, relatives and friends become the last hope for those whose mental health is unstable. What happens to us when we communicate with a person whose mental state requires special attention? We find out together with specialists.

Subtle influence

Contact with another affects us, even if we do not notice it. Communicating with a loved one, whose mental state is unstable, we cannot but “respond” to his state. This phenomenon is called symmetric induction.

“Trying to convince the paranoid, the interlocutor gradually begins to produce overvalued ideas. Trying to convince a hysterical person, a careless interlocutor often does not notice how he gets turned on himself. When trying to discuss with a depressed person, the interlocutor may not immediately notice that he is imbued with a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. So arguing with the mentally ill is not only useless, but also dangerous, ”writes gestalt therapist Denis Andryushchenko.

And if disputes with people suffering from severe forms of mental illness are not so frequent, then with “border guards”, whose state is balancing on the verge of the norm, we constantly meet in everyday life. These are our colleagues, perhaps partners, parents or ourselves.

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