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Mental Health Disorders

People who suffer from anxiety, experience excessive fear and worrying most of the time. This affects a number of different aspects of their lives, including work, school, and relationships. The person has extreme difficulty controlling and managing their preoccupation, and often experience the following symptoms:

  • Agitation, feeling overexcited, or feeling at the end of your rope
  • Fatigability
  • Trouble concentrating or gaps in memory
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Disturbed sleep


  • Know the signs of an anxiety attack.
  • Ask ahead of time what helps if an anxiety attack strikes.
  • Be there; let the person know that they can talk to you about it openly, without any fear of judgment.
  • Remember that they are doing the best they can.
  • Be proud of them when they improve. Be realistic.
  • Make sure to work on your own stress and anxiety management.


  • Don’t assume that they are anxious about something specific.
  • Don’t say:get over it.. Remember, anxiety disorders are not just thought related - they're chemical as well.
  • Don’t bring up the subject; let them bring up their anxiety to you.
  • Don’t let anxiety affect you as well.
  • Don’t expect massive, immediate turnarounds.

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. If your loved one has been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, they may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment


  • Express empathy, encouragement, and support.
  • Know your role and have realistic expectations for yourself within it.
  • Realize this is something they can't snap out of.
  • Give them space to heal; it’s common that a person who is depressed will isolate themselves.
  • Let your loved ones know that you are there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on, even if they don’t ever take you up on your offer.


  • Don’t say things like : «Be strong,», «Don’t cry,», «Focus on the positives!», «Be grateful for what you have» or «Get over it».
  • Don’t be afraid to ask if they're suicidal.
  • Don’t minimize what they're going through.
  • Don’t discredit what they’re feeling and don't tell them you know exactly how they feel.
  • Don’t give up on them (without talking to them about it first).
  • Don’t neglect yourself in the process.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is made up of two parts: obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are unwanted and repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that don’t go away and cause anxiety. Compulsions are actions that are performed to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsessions.


  • Set limits/boundaries: set rules, limits and boundaries and stay consistent.
  • Learn as much as possible on the illness and educate yourself and your family about all aspects of the illness.
  • Remember to get support; join a support group, or talk to someone you thrust.
  • Encourage your loved one to tackle fearful situations.
  • Recognize and acknowledge the seemingly small improvements; they are a powerful motivator.


  • Avoiding being involved in the person's compulsive behavior.
  • Not reassuring the person to let them know things will get better.
  • Don't downplay the trouble; don't say things like "I am a bit OCD too" or "I feel so OCD today".
  • Don't perform daily comparisons; focus on global changes since the beginning of treatment.

According to the DSM-IV, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a general pattern of instability of mood, interpersonal problems, and the image of themselves. It appears in the beginning of adulthood.

It is present in a variety of contexts as indicated by at least 5 of the following :

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment.
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity that is potentially self-damaging
  • Recurrent suicidal behaviour, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behaviour
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms


  • Respect yourself, set limits and protect your comfort zone.
    Seek help, reach out for support and build a network of resources.
  • Taking care of yourself is the foundation on which lasting change is built.
  • Lovingly hold your loved one accountable for his or her behavior.
  • Remember that your loved one does not have the capacity to manage his or her emotions well.


  • Don’t judge their feelings, they are true and real for them
  • Don’t get caught in the chaos
  • Don’t reinforce or normalize impulsive or dangerous behaviour
  • Don’t blame yourself for their explosive behavior
  • Don’t tell your loved one about your plans at the last minute, as they will likely feel abandoned

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking one’s life. Studies have shown that over 90% of people who die from suicide have one or more psychiatric disorders at the time of their death. Comorbidity (having more than one illness at the same time) and how severe the disorders are can increase someone's risk for suicide. People who are thinking of committing suicide usually show warning signals that can alert family and friends to their distress and their plans. Here are some examples of these signals. It’s important to pay attention to them.

  • Direct messages:«I want to end it all.», «I’m going to kill myself.»
  • Indirect messages:«You’d be better off without me.», «I’m useless.», «My life is a failure.», «I’d be better off dead.», «Life is no longer worth living.»


  • Be yourself.
  • Let the person know you love them, care and that they are not alone.
  • Listen and let the person unload despair, ventilate anger.
  • Be there, be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm and accepting.
  • Offer hope; reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary


  • Don’t deny the person’s feelings or argue with the person.
  • Don’t act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
  • Don’t act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
  • Don’t offer ways to fix their problems.
  • Don’t give advice or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings.
  • Don’t promise confidentiality or to be sworn to secrecy.
  • Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s lack of happiness, it is not your responsibility

Broadly speaking, psychosis means a loss of contact with reality; it is a symptom of a number of mental illnesses rather than a medical condition in its own right. Psychosis is an umbrella term; it means that an individual has sensory experiences of things that do not exist and/or beliefs with no basis in reality. During a psychotic episode, an individual may experience hallucinations and/or delusions. They may see or hear things that do not exist.


  • Listen and realize that your loved one may find it difficult to tell what is real from what is not. They may feel overwhelmed, confused, afraid and distressed.
  • Be respectful, act calmly, show understanding, decrease distractions.
  • Learn the LEAP Approach.


  • Don’t immediately assume that another breakdown is coming.
  • Don’t try to figure out what he or she is talking about or to whom they are talking.
  • Don’t tell him or her to stop or force the hallucination to stop.

Schizophrenia is a disorder that is believed to be caused by biochemical imbalance in the brain. It affects a person’s perceptions. Individuals develop a marked change in how they think, feel and act. They can have some of the following symptoms for at least 6 months:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusion
  • Disorganized speech and/or disorganized behavior
  • Apathy
  • Social withdrawal


  • Be patient and calm. It can be quite difficult to understand and interact with your loved one due to their apathy, the difficulties of disorganized thinking and poor concentration.
  • Realize that it is the symptoms of the illness and the context in which the conversation takes place that makes conversation most difficult and not that your loved one wants to purposely shut you out.
  • Remember that sleeping is a way to help with recovery.


  • Don’t argue about strange ideas.
  • Don’t pretend to agree with strange ideas or talk that you cannot understand.
  • Don’t keep up a conversation that you feel is distressing, annoying or too confusing for you.
  • Don’t force the diagnosis on the person as many of them lack the insight to see their symptoms.





Canadian Mental Health Association. (2018). Obsessive compulsive disorder. Retrieved from: https://cmha.ca/documents/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd

Timms, P. (2015). Obsessive compulsive disorder. Retrieved from: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/obsessivecompulsivedisorder.aspx

Van Noppen, B., and Torta, M. (2009). Living with someone who has OCD. Guidelines for family members. Retrieved from: https://iocdf.org/expert-opinions/expert-opinion-family-guidelines/

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2018). Eating disorders Retrieved from: https://cmha.ca/mental-health/understanding-mental-illness/eating-disorders

Mental Health America of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio. (2013). Do’s & Don’ts for Confronting Individuals with Eating Disorders. Retrieved from: http://www.mhankyswoh.org/Uploads/files/pdfs/EatingDisorders-DoAndDont_20130812.pdf

National Eating disorder information. (2018). Help for Friends and Families. Retrieved from: http://nedic.ca/give-get-help/help-friends-family

Recovery has two (2) meanings

  • Clinical Recovery

    Clinical Recovery focuses on getting rid of symptoms, restoring social functioning and “getting back to normal.”

  • Personal Recovery

    Personal Recovery focuses on the process of building a meaningful life as defined by the person with the mental health issues. It involves re-establishing and recovering a sense of identity and purpose within and beyond the limits of the illness. The person develops a deeper understanding and acceptance of their limitations and overcomes their challenges.

  • DO's

    • Help the person find and maintain hope.
    • Allow the person to take responsibility for their own life in as many ways as possible, let her making decisions.
    • Allow the person to take positive risks and build their own treatment plan.

  • DONT's

    • Don’t assume your person cannot make decisions.
    • Don’t view the person as a diagnosis. They are people with challenges; they are more than their illness.
    • Don’t impose your will on the loved one unless it is in a crisis situation. You are a resource person.

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