Lesson 3 Psychoeducation – Better understand your Mental Health

Psychoeducation is necessary to create a better mental health management. Psychoeducation means to inform patients and their relatives about mental health disorders in order to promote insight of the condition wich improves understanding, sticking to management and coping. 

Not only the affected persons themselves are affected. It is important that mental health also affects the social network, family and friends, colleagues etc.. A depressed person, for example, reacts in a rejecting or avoiding way to their environment. Or the social circle notices that something is wrong with the mentally ill person and reacts to this in an overprotective, angry or fearful way, which in turn drives the affected person further into isolation. 

Therefore, it is important to practice psychoeducation in dealing with mental health.

See also chapter self care for methods to obtain psychoeducation on your own. But keep in mind that this information is just supporting the process of a therapy and therefore it is more appropriately done through the help of a professional. Psychoeducation is also a major part of professional treatment.


Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. So when we talk about mental disorders, empathy is an important part of being in contact with mentally challenged people. Empathy helps you to better understand and empathize with the situation. You can train your empathy, for example with this exercise in addition to a psychoeducation, where you have dealt with the topic. But also, if you are struggling with mental challenges yourself, you can do this exercise on your own to build a better understanding of yourself

Ask for someones feelings and take that serious, go more deep into a topic with further questions and show that you are listening. Suggest an honest and trustable base and relationship where emotions can be discused openly and there are no taboos. Try to put yourself into the described situation: How would you feel?

For more information about empathy see also:  https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-empathy-2795562 

Mentalizing is the ability to understand the mental state – of oneself or others – that underlies overt behaviour. Just like empathy mentalizing allows humans to understand others, through the representation of their mental states or their mood. You can train mentalizing within this exercise, by asking others. 

Find a friend or someone in your family to ask how they have been during the day. Ask how he or she is doing so far in the day. Try to ask your questions with a curious, non-judgmental attitude and try to bring out as many moods, thoughts, and emotions as possible by your questions. Notice how this makes you feel and how the other person feels.

Mentalizing is also used by professionals. An example of how mentalizing is used in the treatment of borderline disorders can be found here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2816926/ 

When we know ourselves better, we can more effectively assess why we react the way we do in certain situations. To do this, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your beliefs and principles?
  • What is important to you and what do you value?
  • What motivates you?
  • What are your own emotions (current)?
  • What are your thoughts (current)?
  • What are your tendencies, how you react to certain situations?
  • What do you want in life?

If you want, you can use the above questions to reflect on specific situations in your life. Another method might be writing a diary for example.

  1. Together with your mentally ill relative:
    • Create a list of early warning signs of the illness that you can watch out for together. This will enable you to recognize early that a new phase of the illness may be approaching.  
    • Make clear agreements with your relative about the consequences of certain signs of illness or behavior, i.e., how the person affected, or the family should react to them.    
    • Support your relative in making an appointment with his or her doctor or psychotherapist in such a case, or arrange a joint appointment.
  1. When you are affected by mentally illness:
    • Try to talk to someone to trust; shared problems get less heavy.
    • Be honest with your emotions, do not hide your inside. Only like this your surrounding will get the chance to understand you and react in the way you need it.
    • With your closest friends or family you can create a list of situations that are bothering you and explain what would be the perfect way for you to handle this or to react on special behaviours or warning signs. 
    • Get professional help.