SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – May is Mental Health Awareness Month and you might be wondering what you can do to support a family member with mental illness.

A licensed counselor and member of the board of directors for National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Savannah, Alloceia Hall shed a little light on the subject when she spoke with WSAV NOW on Monday.  

“An overarching goal with everything that we do with NAMI is to help family members, loved ones and caregivers learn and understand how to support their individuals who have mental illnesses,” Hall said.

She explained that the key to helping a family member or loved one who has mental illness includes two main things. The first? Education.

“The more people learn about what to do in the event that you are working with someone with a mental illness, the more it will help them to be able to understand and work with them in light of the difference in their ability,” Hall said.

She said the push for having law enforcement trained on crisis intervention made her aware of the value of all people learning about the specific meaning behind various diagnoses.

What does something like a bipolar diagnosis entail? What does a schizophrenia diagnosis mean for someone?

When answered with accurate education, asking questions like these can lead to a person understanding more about an individual with a disorder.

“Having some idea of what to do and what not to do,” Hall said. “That education alone helps us to be more aware.”  

In turn, this allows people to become more comfortable around those with mental illnesses and become better able to support those in their lives who have a mental illness.  

The other thing?

Hall said taking care of oneself is one of the most important things you can do to help take care of someone who has a mental illness.

“Self-care is so critical,” she said.

Hall explained that taking care of yourself and knowing when to set boundaries is integral to being able to help take care of and support another person — especially someone dealing with mental illness.

She said there shouldn’t be a situation where one person is the sole provider of assistance for the person who needs support. Instead, there should be a system in place so that each person involved does not feel overburdened.

“Being willing and able to take care of yourself as a caregiver is critical to family members and caregivers,” Hall said.

If you are looking for support as someone affected by mental illness, you can attend NAMI Savannah’s monthly family support meeting or their support group for those with mental illness. You can find more information through the link here.