If your loved one has been recently diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) or another mental illness, you might be feeling confused. This is most likely a very new situation for your family. If you have no prior experience with mental health treatment, it is likely that you have many questions. Seeking answers to those questions and educating yourself about their condition is essential. However, it can be overwhelming if you do not know where to look.

The Importance of Educating Yourself

Having the right information is empowering, especially when navigating new situations. The more you know about your loved one’s mental health, the more you will be able to support their recovery. Being knowledgeable about the symptoms your loved one is experiencing can prepare you and help your family to avoid unnecessary conflict. For example, knowing some of the common symptoms associated with conditions like depression can help you to identify those behaviors as symptoms of an illness rather than actions that your loved one is deliberately choosing. 

Learning more will also enable you to provide meaningful support by becoming familiar with what they are going through rather than viewing it as something you cannot understand. It is essential for your loved one to have someone on their side who will take the time to try to understand what they are experiencing. This knowledge also makes you a powerful advocate for your family member. 

Additionally, by educating yourself, you are giving yourself peace of mind. If you do not know what to expect about the healing process going forward, it can feel like everything is out of your hands. Learning about your loved one’s diagnosis and effective treatment opportunities can help give you back some of that power. 

Utilizing Your Loved One’s Treatment Team

Your loved one’s treatment team is a wealth of knowledge. Licensed clinicians receive extensive training to appropriately diagnose and treat substance abuse and mental illness. They draw on their schooling and experience in the field to provide informed, clinical guidance. It is part of their job to stay updated with the current standard of care and evidence-based practice to continue providing safe and effective care. In addition to all of this expertise, generally, your loved one’s mental health providers intimately understand your loved one’s mental health on a personal level.

If you have questions about your loved one’s diagnosis in general or about their treatment plan, prognosis, or progress, the clinicians associated with their care are the ones to ask. Educating patients and families is an essential component of mental health treatment. Therefore, working with a treatment provider that emphasizes family involvement is crucial. 

Your Loved One Will Play a Big Role in Educating You

Mental health professionals involved in your loved one’s treatment are essential resources because of their firsthand knowledge of your loved one’s condition and treatment plan. The one person who knows the most, however, is your loved one. Not everyone who lives with substance abuse or another mental health condition has the same experience. There is tremendous variety between individuals. Your loved one is not just someone who lives with SUD. Rather, they live with their own version of it. 

They are the one who experiences symptoms each day and understands how those symptoms affect their life. To be effectively educated, you can consider asking them about their experience. This can provide you with an intentional level of information that no other source can offer.

Identifying Reputable Sources

Fortunately, there are many resources available to learn more about mental health. The internet facilitates quick and easy access to these materials. Unfortunately, the best resources are often buried underneath a mountain of subpar information. Knowing how to identify legitimate information can save you from the consequences of obtaining incorrect or misleading information.

Government Websites

It is a good rule of thumb that government websites are trustworthy sources for this information. You can identify government websites by looking for a .gov at the end of a link. Some helpful government sources include:

Accredited Mental Health Websites

You can also seek information from professional licensing agencies in the mental health field. Such organizations are responsible for setting the ethical standard for mental health professionals, regulating licensing, accrediting educational programs, and distributing research. These include:

In addition to government and professional agencies, there are also mental health nonprofits that can provide important information. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA) are two additional examples. 

There is a lot of information about substance abuse and mental illness available on the internet. When accessing this information is as easy as clicking a link and spending a few minutes reading, a wealth of information is suddenly available. This can help to alleviate some of the confusion you may be feeling as you try to help your loved one. It can also open doors to further confusion and misdirection if you have stumbled upon an unreputable source. Having experts on your side will make this process much easier. Our team at Family-Centered Services is dedicated to providing you and your family with evidence-based treatment options that you can be sure about. Call us at (509) 991-5822 today.