In 1990 The U.S. Congress officially established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). During this critical week, mental health advocates work together to educate the public about Enabling Mental Health.

This week is dedicated to mental health treatment, awareness, and recovery.

Understanding the difference between supporting and enabling is an important topic when it comes to mental illness, as well as substance abuse.

How do you provide support without crossing boundaries or enabling negative behavior?

Imagine a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. If you interfere with the process, you could damage its wings and it will never fly on its own.

The key to supporting is to provide a nurturing environment in which the caterpillar can become a butterfly.


Supporting & Empowering Your Loved One with Mental Illness Awareness

Your loved one must take responsibility and cultivate a sense of autonomy to be successful in recovery.

Empowering or supporting your loved one during a mental health crisis means lending a helping hand without taking responsibility for your loved one’s recovery.

  • Offer to attend community support groups with them.
  • Participate in family or couples’ therapy.
  • Help them research the best treatment options.
  • Hold them accountable when they relapse, refuse to seek help, or stop taking their medication.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Be honest if they have hurt you.
  • Offer to lend a listening ear when they need to talk.

Enabling Your Loved One with Mental Illness Awareness

Enabling is often easy to do, but it is incredibly unhealthy. When you enable your loved one, you take on all of the work.

You try to make their problems go away and try to fix them yourself. Enabling behavior includes:

  • Ignoring their dangerous behavior.
  • Making excuses for their poor behavior.
  • Covering up or lying about their harmful actions.
  • Prioritizing their needs before your own.
  • Violating boundaries for them.

The Dangers of Enabling Mental Health

Enabling your loved one during their mental illness recovery is not only harmful to them, but it can also be harmful to you.

Individuals who act as enablers struggle with their self-esteem and must help others so they can feel worthy or wanted. In fact, enabling can be detrimental to your own mental health and relationships.

  • Do you do things for your loved one that he/she can do by himself?
  • Do you enjoy “rescuing” others?
  • Are you acting out of guilt or obligation?
  • Do you ignore warning signs and do everything you can to minimize the damage?
  • Are you acting out of fear?
  • Do you always apologize to others?
  • Do you have a hard time saying “no”?
  • Do you often feel emotionally empty after helping others?
  • Do you see others as helpless?

If you find yourself answering, “yes,” too many of the above questions, you may need to take the necessary steps to help yourself.

Seeking therapy, joining a support group, setting boundaries, practicing self-love, and learning how to say “no” are all steps you can take.

Offering Healthy Support From Mental Illness is Challenging

Empowerment and support are challenging. You need to be honest with your loved one, even if it means that they may not want to hear what you have to say.

Sometimes empowering your loved one may mean that you have to set boundaries, take a step back, or involve mental health professionals.

If your loved one is always making bad decisions and putting your happiness or safety in jeopardy, you must step out of their life for a brief moment.

Taking a step back may be painful. But if you put your loved one before your own needs and safety, then you are enabling them to continue this harmful behavior.

Being a mental health advocate, supporting your loved one, and standing up for what is right are not easy tasks, but you can make a big difference in the lives of others.

Beginning Recovery

AKUA is a full-service mental health and substance abuse treatment center that provides residential care, intensive outpatient care, and outpatient care to men and women.

AKUA believes in a whole-person treatment approach, meaning that the mind and body both must be whole for the individual to fully recover.

We offer various levels of care for mental illness recovery, as well as substance abuse recovery, and dual-diagnosis, in which both issues are present.

Call 833-258-2669 for a consultation about which program may be right for you.


  • Kristen, is a clinical content writer and enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine. She is a family medicine physician and author, who also teaches and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies within educating the public on preventable diseases including mental health disorders and the stigma associated with them. She is also an outdoor activist and dog enthusiast.

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