To those of you that work with clients that have a mental illness here’s a few things that might be helpful to you!
1. Have compassion. I know that you’re there to do a job and that may mean you’ll have to tell me no to something, but please try to come from a place of kindness. I come to you broken and afraid. My mind is often not working the way it should and people have let me down and I have been hurt along the way. I don’t mean to frustrate you by not understanding what you’re telling me. I’m not deliberately trying to annoy you and make your day more difficult. Please try to understand that I don’t see things as clearly as you’re trying to explain them to me.
2. Have patience. My illness often gets in the way of me doing what’s best for me. I will have many relapses along the way. When you give me a task to do and I don’t follow through, it’s not because I’m being petulant and uncooperative, it’s because I honestly couldn’t do it. I already feel guilty and ashamed for failing, please don’t add to it by reprimanding me again. Be patient and ask me to do it again. Help me to do it even.
3. Be kind. When I’m there to see you, it probably took all my strength and courage to come there. I need to feel accepted and wanted. If you’re having a bad day, please don’t take it out on me. It will devastate me more than the average person. If I’m being unreasonable with you, be firm with me in what your expectations are about my behaviour, but please be kind.
4. Be non-judgemental. This is huge. I live with a mental illness and that in itself has been a huge burden to overcome. The stigma attached to having a mental illness is unfair. But it’s there. And there may be behaviours or symptoms of my illness that are difficult for me or for others to cope with and its even harder when I feel judged for this.
5. Be helpful. You never know how much taking that little extra step can change someone’s life for the better. Something as simple as looking up the phone number they might need or making a copy of something for them that maybe doesn’t fall into your normal duties can make a huge difference. It might only take you a few seconds. If you see someone visibly struggling, ask yourself what you can do to help?
You all got into the profession of helping others because you want to make a difference. Like many with mental illness, I rely on others to help manage my illness and live as successful a life as I can. Thank you for helping me do that!