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How to Help Someone Struggling with Mental Illness

May 23, 2018 2:01 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, here are some tips on how to support people you may know who deal with mental illness. 

It can be challenging to know what to say to someone who is struggling with mental illness. Whether it’s a chronic issue that is temporarily worsened, or a new challenge that’s just emerged, many people ask “what should I say?” or “what can I do?”. We’ve put together a few pointers to help.
  1. Listen. If someone brings up the topic of mental health and wants to share, don’t change the subject. Let them know that they are important to you, you care about them, and are willing to be there for them through their struggles, even if it is to just listen and let them feel heard. If you don’t feel that you have the emotional strength or capacity to listen, you can offer to help connect them with professional resources or someone who can help.
  2. Make an effort to become aware of warning signs or clues that someone might not be doing well. If you find that someone is exhibiting some of these signs or symptoms, you can say something as simple as “I’m worried about you. I’m concerned. It seems like you’re going through something tough right now. Can we talk?” If they say no, ask if there is someone else that they’re talking to, or would like to talk to.
  3. When someone brings up their struggles with you, it can sometimes be hard to know what someone wants. Some people are looking for concrete problem solving, while others would rather you just listen to them. “I’m concerned and want to support you. How can I be most helpful?” is a great way to get this conversation started. If they want you to just be present, try to avoid offering suggestions. Let the person share as little or as much as they are comfortable sharing, and try to not to pressure them or push them farther.
  4. When in a conversation with a friend or family member, don’t try to diagnose them. Validate rather than minimize their feelings. Similarly, don’t assume that you know what they have been through. Everyone experiences life in different ways.
  5. Continue to include the person in your plans, inviting them to social outings, for example, even if they seem reluctant. Again, don’t pressure them, but let them know that you’d like to spend time with them if they are up for it.
  6. Keep in mind that you are not a professional. If someone indicates that they are in crisis or immediate danger, take action to ensure that they are safe.

Your friends and family who are struggling with mental illness appreciate your being there for them. Taking time to understand their challenges and asking how you can help will go a long way.

For more information, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health at www.nami.org.

Article originally from www.thinkpacifica.com.