Watching someone you love struggle with their mental health can be really difficult. It’s even more difficult to understand mental illness if you haven’t been through it so you might feel helpless.
You don’t have to do anything huge to help a loved one with a mental illness but you might not know what to do or how to help. You may not be a professional, an educator, or an expert on mental health illness, but there are steps you can take to educate yourself and support your loved ones.
So, what can you do to help someone with a mental illness?
- Educate yourself about their specific disorder and treatment options. Understanding their condition can help you better understand their experiences and how to support them. Mental illness is real. It is no less of a physical illness than any other illness. As a society, we need to break down the stigmas and stereotypes.
- Offer emotional support. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and validate their emotions. Let them know that it’s okay to not be okay and that you’re there for them no matter what.
- Listen without judgment. Do not jump to conclusions or form opinions based on what is said.
- Don’t bombard them with advice or questions. People who suffer from a mental illness just want someone to listen, or to just hug and cry. It’s the best way to show your support. Just being there for them. Just ask what they want/need.
- Offer unconditional love. It makes a person feel safe and wanted, which results in them finding the strength to be vulnerable.
- Help them access treatment. Offer to go with them to therapy sessions or help them find a mental health professional. As much as you may want to, you cannot help your loved one all on your own. While you may be able to provide some emotional support, mental health experts and medical professionals are trained to identify and create treatment plans for all sorts of mental health issues.
- Encourage self-care. Help them prioritize self-care activities, such as exercising, doing things they love, eating well, and getting enough sleep.
- Be patient. Recovery from a mental health disorder can be a long and challenging process. It’s important to be patient and understanding as your loved one works toward recovery.
- Seek support for yourself. Supporting a loved one with a mental health disorder can be emotionally taxing. Make sure to take care of your own emotional and mental well-being by seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.
What to say to show your support:
- “I am here for you”
- “How can I help?”
- “What is the best way I can support you?”
- “I love you”
- “Your feelings are valid”
- “You’re important to me”
- “I may not understand how you’re feeling, but you’re not alone”
It’s also important to remember that everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
But just know that you can make a difference. ❤