3 Ways to Support Military Family Members with Mental Illness

By: Vanessa Steffens

Service members may experience all ranges of mental health related issues. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 active duty service members is affected by a mental health condition. Unfortunately, there is a large stigma surrounding mental illness and service members. Most military members will be silent about their emotional and mental struggles. Knowing how to support your loved one can seem daunting. We are here to help.

Notice the signs

The signs and symptoms of mental illness can be hard to identify, and knowing what to look for can be difficult to the untrained eye. Some common symptoms related to mental illness include:

  • Prolonged sadness or irritability;
  • Extreme highs and lows;
  • Excessive fears, worries, or anxieties;
  • Social withdrawal;
  • Dramatic changes in eating and sleeping behaviors;
  • Strong feelings of anger;
  • Suicidal thoughts;
  • Delusions and hallucinations;
  • Excessive substance abuse.

Mental illness looks different with every person. It is important to keep in mind that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms all the time or at the same intensity.

Show Support

It’s hard to know the best ways to support loved ones struggling with a mental illness or other mental health related challenges. Letting your loved one know that you are there for them in a non-judgmental, empathic, and supportive way can be very empowering for that person. Being vulnerable and willing to open a dialogue about the common issues that service members face can make your loved one feel safe and comfortable opening up to you about their struggles. Understanding stigma and your loved one’s concerns about a mental health diagnosis is another subject to open up about. Creating a safe space of trust and empathy goes a long way in helping others feel heard and understood.

Get Help

If your loved one is struggling with mental health related issues, seeking professional help may be the best next step – for you and your loved one. Even a quick consultation phone call can be reassuring when trying to find the best fit.

At Sunstone, we see a variety of presenting problems and would love to give you and your loved one the support you need! Call us (703.534.5100) or contact a counselor directly through our website!