Here are some basic communication guidelines when you are dealing with someone with a mental illness. Of course, they will work with anyone.
1. Use short, clear direct sentences. Long, involved explanations are difficult for people with mental illness to handle. They will tune you out.
2. Keep the content of communications simple. Cover only one topic at a time; give only one direction at a time. Be as concrete as possible. This is important with anyone. Many arguments are started when discussions are thrown wide open by bringing up several topics at once. Pick a topic and stick with it.
3. Do what you can to keep the “stimulation level” as low as possible. A loud voice, an insistant manner, making accusations and criticisms are painfully defeating for anyone who has suffered a mental breakdown.
4. If your relative appears withdrawn and uncommunicative, back off for a while. Your communication will have a better chance of getting the desired response when your relative is calmer and in better contact.
5. Assume that a good deal of everything you say to your ill relative will “fall through the cracks.” You will often have to repeat instructions and directions. Be patient; you will be rewarded in heaven.
6. Be pleasant and firm. If you do not “waffle” or undermine what you are expressing, your relative will not as readily misinterpret it. Communications are our “boundaries in dealing with others. Make sure your boundaries are sturdy and clear.
These are from the NAMI Family to Family program that I talked about last posting. I know when I deal with my son, I often have to repeat directions. I can only tell him to do one thing at a time. Or write it down. Then he will get distracted to even think to read the list sometimes.
If you keep this list in mind when dealing with your mentally ill relative, it will help out a lot.