Serious mental illness (SMI) is a mental, a behavioral or emotional disorder resulting in severe functional impairments. SMI substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. For example, people with serious mental illness are more likely to be unemployed, arrested, and/or face inadequate housing compared to those without mental illness. Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, for example. Living with a family member who has been diagnosed with Severe Mental Illness can be challenging. Lack of sleep, hospital visits, arrests, arguments over medications can leave a family member drained.
Individuals living with a severe mental illness may experience several episodes of Psychosis during their illness. Psychosis can be challenging for family members to handle. During a psychotic episode, the person with an SMI may not even realize that they are sick, refuse to get help, stay in treatment, or take medications. Severe mental illness tends to involve some degree of Psychosis.
Psychosis is a term used to describe a condition in which a person has lost contact with reality. Psychosis can be seen in several disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, schizoaffective disorder, and drug-induced Psychosis, for example. Psychosis can include at least three phases to include the following:
- Premorbid Phase (no symptoms but high-risk factors are present).
- Prodromal Phase-In In this Phase, you start to see some changes in an individuals emotion, motivation, thinking, perception or behavior.
- Acute Phase-In this Phase, symptoms such as delusion and hallucination are present.
Other symptoms of Psychosis include:
Delusions are false beliefs that are not part of the person’s culture and do not change. The person believes delusions even after other people prove that the beliefs are not valid or logical. For example, people with schizophrenia can have delusions that seem bizarre, such as believing that neighbors can control their behavior with magnetic waves.
They may also believe that people on television are directing particular messages to them or that radio stations are broadcasting their thoughts aloud to others. Sometimes they think they are someone else, such as a famous historical figure. Finally, they may have paranoid delusions and believe that others are trying to harm or plot against them or the people they care about. These beliefs are called “delusions of persecution.”
Hallucinations – A sensory perception in the absence of an actual external stimulus; to be distinguished from an illusion, which is a misperception or misinterpretation of an external stimulus. Hallucinations may involve any of the senses.
Reduction in ability to maintain social relationships·
Changes in emotion/thinking/perception/behaviors
Change in appetite
Reduced energy and motivation
I asked one of our board members to tell me one trait family members would need to live with a loved one who has been diagnosed with a severe mental illness, and she said endurance.
According to Merriam Webster, one definition for endurance is sustaining a prolonged stressful effort or activity.
Yes you will need endurance to advocate for your loved one but you will also need endurance to advocate for yourself. As a family member, you must have an outlet, someone to talk to, you must obtain regular physicals and take care of yourself. Remember, you are not alone and can’t do everything. Prayer and people. We were not designed to operate alone. (Part 2 to follow)