It is estimated that around 1 in 5 Americans lives with a mental illness (NIMH). Mental health disorders are becoming more prevalent, but many people are still reluctant to talk openly about them. If you have a friend or a family member who has symptoms of a mental health condition, it’s natural to want to help, but it’s not always easy to know what to do. This guide provides three suggestions for how to support a loved one with mental illness.
1. Offer to talk
Talking can be incredibly beneficial for people who experience symptoms of a mental illness, but some people are reluctant to open up. If you have a loved one who is going through a tough time and you’ve noticed changes in their behavior or mood, offer to listen. Encourage them to talk when they feel ready.
Try not to apply pressure or make them do something they don’t want to, though. Sometimes, people want to talk, but they feel uncomfortable around people they know because they are embarrassed. Or, perhaps they worry about being a burden to you.
If that is the case, it’s helpful to research organizations that provide advice and support and to pass the details on to your loved one. You may find that they feel able to talk to a therapist, call a helpline, and open up to somebody else who doesn’t know them well.
2. Research facilities and treatments
Mental health disorders can be more complex and difficult to diagnose, treat and manage than physiological issues. But, thankfully, there are therapies and treatments available. If you have a friend or relative, help them by researching facilities and treatment options.
You can do the research with them or present your findings to them if they don’t want to be involved. From addiction and coping with postnatal depression to severe anxiety, there is help available. You can search for facilities online using sites like Rehab List, find details of nonprofits that provide support and practical advice, and read up on therapies recommended by healthcare professionals.
It’s important to understand that people can seek help and to be there to reassure your friend or relative if they do want to take the next step. You could arrange to be there when they make a call or go to an appointment with them, for example.
3. Try to help loved ones with mental illness
It can be difficult to know exactly how to help someone who has a mental illness. If you have a friend with a physical illness, such as a broken leg, you can get painkillers from the pharmacy for them or help with shopping and cooking meals. With mental health, it’s more challenging to know how you can make a difference. The best thing to do is to ask your loved one if there is anything you could do to help them.
They may want to talk or they might appreciate you going to an appointment with them. Alternatively, they might want your advice about speaking to their boss or considering treatment options, for example.
Mental health disorders are common, but it can be difficult to talk about them and to know how to help someone you care about deeply. If you want to be there, make sure they know that they can talk to you. Listen to them, be patient, and don’t apply pressure. Finally, encourage them to ask for help and seek professional advice.