How this guide is organized (with excerpts)

Endorsements by Mental Health Professionals

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Library of Congress information



When you first realize that someone you are close to may have a mental illness, it can be a chaotic and frightening time. You fear where this may lead. Suddenly you are called upon to provide special support for which you feel completely unprepared. What can you do? Who can you talk to?

If you're in this situation, this guide is for you. It gives information and advice from others who have been through your experience.

If you're reading this in an emergency, click here

When you have time, the rest of this guide will help you understand what's going on and suggest what you can do to help both the ill person and yourself. This guide passes on the advice of doctors, mental health professionals, and people who have been in the role of a companion, as you now may be.

We use the word companion to refer to the friend, family member, or co-worker who is there with someone at the start of a mental illness. A companion is different from a "caregiver." That much broader term also includes many kinds of highly experienced care providers and trained professionals. A companion, for us, is an ordinary person who is plunged into a bewildering and sometimes frightening situation and wants to know how to help. This guide shows how a companion of a person with mental illness can play an important role, one which is increasingly appreciated by health care professionals.

© Katherine Farris and Larry MacDonald, 2005