Concern over a loved one

Mental disorders are common and their degree of severity varies a lot: the milder disorders only slightly interfere with everyday life, whereas the most severe disorders may reduce the patient’s ability to function almost into non-existence. There is rarely a clear cause for the onset of mental disorders. In case you suspect that someone close to you is suffering from mental health problems, you can try to help the person seek help. The diagnosis should always be made by a doctor. Read more about seeking help.

You can express your concerns to your loved one by, for example, saying the following: "I’ve noticed that, for a long time now, you’ve seemed anxious/scared/angry, has something bad happened?" It may not be anything serious. Sometimes people suffer weeks of melancholy without it being a mental disorder that can be diagnosed. However, it is also common for people suffering from, for example, depression to delay seeking help.

At first, people may seem irritated when they notice that someone close to them is trying to help them. They may become confused when they realise that other people have noticed the anxiety they may have tried to deny even from themselves. However, people suffering from mental disorders often say it felt good to realise someone cared.

Finding help

One of the most common concerns of family members and friends is finding suitable and adequate treatment. It seems that counselling is not available at public health care as often as needed, and it takes time and personal effort to get into psychotherapy reimbursed by KELA. Read more about psychotherapy. In addition, medication often takes time to start working. Supporting and maintaining hope are often the most important tasks of loved ones, especially early on in the treatment.

The family members and friends of a self-destructive or psychotic person often wish the patient would be hospitalised. Indeed, the reduction of psychiatric hospital beds has generated a lot of public dialogue. People suffering from the most severe mental disorders may have periods in their lives when outpatient care does not seem sufficient.

Friends and families may find the situation very difficult if the person suffering from the mental disorder does not feel ill, i.e. the person does not realise the need for medical care. This can happen with, for example, schizophrenia and during the manic phase of bipolar affective disorder (read a case example). The lack of awareness of the illness makes it difficult to obtain and receive treatment. It may present itself, for example, as refusal to take medication, unwillingness to seek counselling or to commit to psychotherapy.