Supporting Someone Through Mental Health Struggles

Mental health issues can profoundly affect those experiencing them and those around them. If someone you care about is going through a difficult time, your support can be incredibly valuable. Many times we want to help but don’t know how or even what to say. We feel lost and helpless to those we love and that can feel even worse than watching them go through what they’re struggling with.  

The first thing you can do is begin to educate yourself and continue to stay informed on resources. Understanding the basics of mental health issues can go a long way in supporting someone effectively. Learn about the specific condition they are facing, its symptoms, and its treatments. Knowledge can help you empathize and avoid misconceptions and if you are able to guide others and the individual towards local and online resources, you can encourage others to look into those resources for themselves and their loved ones. You can also help others close to them gain an understanding. Reducing the stigma around mental health and creating awareness can help create a supportive environment for the one facing those mental health challenges. 

It is absolutely important to listen without any judgment. Listening to their experience of their mental health challenges encourages them to be more open about their struggle and ask for help. Allow them to express their feelings without interruption or judgment and avoid offering advice right away. Wait till they ask for it or when the time is right ask if they would like any help. And this can come later when you have consistently checked in with them. Showing that you are there for them and caring for them can go a long way and in time they may be ready to ask you for help. It is also vitally important to avoid using language that could make light of their struggle. Strive to use supportive language when talking with them or around them relating to the area of mental health and remember that someone else may be experience mental illness as well but to a different degree. 

Many individuals struggling with mental illness may not be ready to accept help right when they disclose their struggle to you. Respect their boundaries and know that in time they may be ready to receive that help. Pressuring them to talk or socialize can backfire and can put them in a worse situation than they were before. Be supportive, but respect their wishes. Being patient can be a hard thing to do especially if it’s someone you care deeply for. Remember it can be a long and non-linear process. There will be good days and bad days and understanding the process takes time can go a long way in offering support. 

When the time is right, encourage professional help. While being supportive is important, professional help is necessary for recovery. Encourage them to seek out counseling or therapy and even helping them find a therapist can go a long way. Remember they need to be in a place of wanting to go to counseling or therapy. Making the appointment for them or talking with the therapist for them can hinder their recovery. One thing you can do is help them with everyday tasks as those can be overwhelming while going through the healing process. These small tasks like cooking or cleaning can help them feel supported and can give them more mental bandwidth to focus on healing. 

Remember to take care of yourself as you support others. It can be emotionally taxing and it’s essential to take care of your own mental health. Seek out your own support and therapy so you can continue to help and support those you care about. Neglecting yourself will only hurt your ability to be present for others. 

Watching someone struggle with mental health issues is no walk in the park. Remember to have compassion, patience, and understanding through the process. By being there for them you can make a positive impact on their healing journey and help them see they are not alone and fighting the battle solo. Sitting with them through the good and the bad days can provide for them hope and encourage them to seek the support they need to overcome.