Health and Disability

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Known Mental Health Disorders

When a friend discloses a mental illness to you treat that information as something special. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness a disclosure indicates that the person has trust in you. The disclosure may reflect an explanation for previous or current behaviour, a need to tell someone or a request for help. It will pay to listen carefully to your friend to define what they want from you. What to do next depends on the friend and your relationship. If they are asking you to take on a carer’s role you need to be clear what this entails before agreeing.

If they want ongoing support then listening when needed and learning the signs of deterioration are very important. Many with mental illness have achieved senior positions by having colleagues and friends who will inform them when their behaviour (warning signs) is outside the norm and they should seek professional help.

If your friend wants you to take on a more significant carer’s role then think about this very carefully. For a close or intimate friend this may be something you wish to do. If so find out about the illness from the friend and with the friend’s consent from the treating professionals. Ensure that you have your own support network in place and it may be wise to seek advice from support organisations such as the Association for Relatives and Friends of the Mentally ill (ARAFMI) or the Mental Illness Fellowship. Specific websites may also be of help for example, beyondblue and SANE Australia.

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