No doubt, being present as a friend or family member to support someone with mental illness is an important role. But with its importance comes a great deal of responsibility. Understanding mental illness from the outside can be a tough task for someone who has never faced it. Like any successful relationship, appropriate boundaries and communication happen. For those facing mental health problems, having a safe place to open up about one’s problems and receiving support is the foundation of recovery.
How to Talk About Mental Health
Sometimes, a conversation needs to be started before we fully understand the scope of someone else’s problem. Appropriate ways to engage others and actively listen include the following:
- Express worry but in a calm manner. Ask if they are willing to talk to you about what their experiences and let them know that you care, want to listen, and are interested in knowing how they feel.
- If they don’t feel comfortable talking to you, ask if there is someone they do feel comfortable talking with. If they give a name of someone you also know, it may be necessary for you to get in touch with that person to let them in on the situation, especially if your friend or family member doesn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone else at the moment.
- Ask the other person if they know someone who has also faced mental illness. Helping the other person understand that others have been through what they are going through may help them be more willing to open up.
- Express calm concern for their safety. Politely ask about thoughts of self-harm and harming others.
- Ask if and how they’ve tried coping with these issues in the past.
- Close out the conversation by asking if there are any other ways you can help them.
How to Support Friends and Family
It’s vital to understand how much those around you facing mental illness need a strong support system. Helping others recognize they’re not alone in the battle is critical for helping them recognize and accept their own problems, receive earlier treatment, and achieve greater understanding and compassion for the help from their support system. In addition to starting the initial conversation, the following are ways to support those closest to you with mental illness:
- Remind them that help and treatment for mental health problems is always available.
- Reassure them that you care for their health and safety.
- Offer assistance with everyday tasks during your off-time if you live nearby.
- Include them in your plans, and continue to invite them without being overbearing, even if they resist your invitations.
- Help more of your friends and family understand what is happening to the member or friend with mental illness. Let them know that mental health problems do not discriminate and can happen to anyone.
- As always, show anyone with mental health problems respect, compassion, dignity, and empathy.
Getting Help for Friends and Family
While we want to help you understand every way you can support those closest to you with mental illness, there may be a point in time in which they need care you cannot provide. If someone you know needs additional help, multiple resources are available. At the Holiner Psychiatric Group, we specialize in treatment for a comprehensive scope of mental disorders, including inpatient and outpatient services. If you’re interested in learning more then we invite you to give us a call or fill out our new patient request form today.
We also understand there may be instances where someone needs more immediate attention than we can provide. Your friend or family member may have questions on receiving help as a veteran or getting questions answered based on the type of insurance they hold. We invite you to visit the MentalHeath.gov to learn more about these matters.
No one has to walk this road alone, and we’re here to help.