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How to Make it Through:

Survival Steps for Families

Maintain a low-key environment to avoid relapse and promote recovery.  Include your relative in ways that are not overly stimulating.  Expressions of extreme concern or excessive enthusiasm can be as stressful as nagging, rejection, and conflict.  Anticipate change and make only one change at a time.  Change in the routine of a person with severe psychiatric disabilities is always potentially stressful.

  • Set firm limits regarding violent behavior, the use of illicit drugs, and medication non-compliance.  Do not ignore psychotic or aggressive behavior.  Say “no” when appropriate, but do not argue with paranoid ideas.
  • Keep communication clear.  Use simple and direct statements.  Emphasize positive messages and supportive comments.
  • Do not allow the sickest member of the household to dominate the entire family.  Protect other members of the family.  Do not neglect the siblings of the ill person; be sensitive to their needs as well.
  • Learn your relative’s pattern of early warning signs.
  • Accept what cannot be changed.  Stop the blaming.  What’s done is done.
  • Take care of yourself.  Get your own life going again.  Develop a life-style that does not entirely center on the patient or even your family.  Develop a program of self-care.  Write it down and follow it.
  • Try to strike a balance between realism and hope.
  • Become an advocate for people with mental illness.

From the NAMI Lacrosse Beacon, via NAMI of Vermont Newsletter

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