How Do I Help a Loved One Who Is Struggling With Behavioral Health Issues?

It is a fine and sometimes perilous line that one has to walk when it comes to getting a loved one help for their mental health. Whether it be due to psychological concerns, addiction, or other behavioral health issues, the act of getting someone the care they need is often no easy task.

The Dalai Lama once famously weighed in on our human need to help others. He said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” So, what then happens if by not helping them, you may be hurting them? That is when it is best to turn to mental and behavioral health experts for advice and guidance.

What Exactly Is Behavioral Health?

Often, the earliest recognizable signs that a loved one is struggling with issues of mental health is via their behaviors. However, it is important to note that behavioral health issues do not always correlate to issues of mental health. Again, this is yet another reason to reach out to professionals if there is any inkling that there may be something deeper going on.

Behavioral health has much to do with mental health of course. In fact, one very rarely can have mental health issues without also having behavioral health issues. This is because negative thoughts (aka cognitions) and emotions correlate to negative issues of behavioral health. However, a person can indeed struggle with poor behavioral health issues without necessarily struggling with poor mental health. This is because one’s behavioral health does not have to solely rely on internal factors. 

One’s behavioral health can also be directly affected by the external world. This could be one’s socioeconomic situation, family life, or even the region in which they live. Still, just because behavioral health issues may not be directly linked to mental health at the beginning does not mean that they won’t cause issues of mental health down the road. Again, this is yet another reason to avoid wrongly diagnosing a loved one’s mental or behavioral health issues without a proper evaluation from a mental health professional.

Recognizing Behavioral Health Issues

When it comes to recognizing behavioral health issues, one of the best ways to detect them is via their previous behaviors. If a loved one’s behaviors suddenly change, it can be a good indicator that there may be something going on. However, it is important to be vigilant because negative behaviors also manifest over time. Additionally, it is crucial to note that negative behavioral health should not be judged on one “bad day,” but rather on a series of disconcerting instances.

While there are countless behavioral health issues to look out for, there are several common warning signs worth recognizing. An individual may be struggling with their behavioral health if they:

  • Suddenly “retreat” from life and begin to isolate themselves from others
  • Start to exhibit drastic mood swings for seemingly little to no external reason
  • Suddenly lose interest in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed
  • Experience trouble at work, school, or home without provocation
  • Start to abuse substances or act out in risky or dangerous ways

Treating Behavioral Health Issues

Although it has been mentioned a few times already, the best way to help a loved one with behavioral health issues is to leave it to the professionals. A qualified mental and/or behavioral health specialist can help determine the issues that a loved one may be struggling with. They will also be able to connect them with a recovery center if treatment is determined as the best next step.

Many people may be hesitant about contacting a recovery center because they may feel overwhelmed by worries regarding the next steps. For instance, they may have financial or scheduling worries. Still, the good news is that reaching out to a recovery center does not mean that any commitment is made to treatment. It is important to remember that the individual is always in charge of their own recovery path (of course, unless they are in danger of harming themself or others). 

For behavioral health issues, a qualified recovery center will be able to offer several treatment paths that are best suited to fit a client’s needs. This can be a residential or partial hospitalization treatment program (PHP) for individuals that need more closely monitored care at the beginning, or it may be an intensive outpatient (IOP) or general outpatient program for individuals that can stay active in their day-to-day lives.

When a loved one is struggling with mental and/or behavioral health issues, it can feel like you don’t know where to turn or who to turn to. The key is not to get overwhelmed or discouraged and to reach out to a mental health professional sooner than later. They can help get you the right information you may need, and more importantly, get your loved one to the right place they need. 

Regardless of which treatment program is chosen, the most important part is that it was chosen based on the individual and not on a broad understanding of behaviors. Healing cannot simply come from a clinical “how-to” book. No, healing must come from one on one work directly with each client.