Most of us have someone in our lives that struggles with some level of mental illness. As someone who is trying to be supportive, it can often feel nerve-wracking and sometimes even a little frustrating.
Especially if you know someone who struggles with severe mental illness, being a support system can take a toll. Finding ways to best be there for them, provide love and care, and take care of yourself in the process is essential.
When To Step In And Help
Sometimes people who struggle with mental health issues deal with a lot of internalized shame and embarrassment. They might not want to share what they are dealing with for fear of being judged, misunderstood, or labeled as crazy.
The stigmas surrounding mental illness are very real. Until you know someone who has had to face this straight-on, it may be hard to fully grasp how strong the barriers are for seeking out help.
Unless someone you know or love asks directly for support, you might be unsure if they need help or how severe the problems may be.
Some signs to look for include:
- They shut off from you or stop answering calls.
- They don’t find joy in the things that normally bring them joy, such as passions or hobbies.
- They might eat less and be visibly losing weight.
- They stop going to social events.
- They start using drugs more heavily as a coping mechanism.
- They make jokes or elude to ideations of suicide.
- They stop showing up to school or work and call in sick or completely drop off.
What You Can Do
So, you might be thinking what can I do to help? Of course, you’re not a professional, and in an ideal scenario, the person struggling will be seeking support from a licensed practitioner.
Many people have partners or loved ones who struggle with depression or other mental health issues, and this can make the relationship extra challenging. But as a friend, partner, or support person, there are some things you can do to help.
1. Encourage Them To Seek Treatment From A Professional
This may be a sensitive subject, especially if the person has had negative experiences with therapists or social workers in the past. Remind them that it’s okay to seek support without being too pushy.
If you seek therapy, maybe you can talk about that. Any way to normalize medical support is helpful, and providing help in this avenue could be helpful. You can offer to research certain clinics or research some recommended therapists.
2. Help Them Set Some Goals Or Make A Plan
Make sure these are specific and realistic goals. Maybe it can mean trying to find a professional or a plan for who to call when things are extra hard. You can also work with them on setting some tangible goals for the week, such as getting their assignment complete or prioritizing some work projects. Hold a brainstorming session with them ask them how they want to be held accountable for these goals.
3. Learn About Their Illness
It can help to understand their patterns and how their mental illness might affect them. This creates more empathy and understanding and also prepares you for certain patterns that might arise due to these traits.
4. Remind Them You’re There For Them
Sometimes what people need most is to know that someone cares. Checking in on them might be the best thing you can do. Ask them if they need anything. Let them know you love and care for them, and that when they’re ready, you are there to hold space for them. You may have to remind them often and check on them regularly if you know they are struggling.
Find a Balance
Remember to take always care of yourself first. You can’t take care of someone if you aren’t doing well. Sometimes having boundaries can be important too, so just make sure to balance how much support you can give with taking time and space for your mental health.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.