Mental illness is challenging to navigate, both for the people who live with it and their loved ones. Often, it can be difficult for friends or family members to know how to best help someone who is experiencing poor mental health. Should you give them space? Check in with them more often? Ask how they're doing, or offer a distraction?
These questions don't always have clear-cut answers. In most situations, the right course of action will depend on the person in question and their circumstances. However, when it comes to helping someone with mental illness, the following strategies are a good starting point:
- Listen. Sometimes, the best way you can show support is to simply allow your loved one to tell you how they feel and offer sympathy (or empathy) and non-judgement. Resist the urge to try to problem-solve for them or brush off their feelings with platitudes like "Can't you just choose to be happy?" or "It will all work out."
- Offer help. For someone who is experiencing poor mental health, even daily activities and self-care can feel overwhelming. If you're able, consider asking them whether you can help with anything, like dropping off meals, assisting with errands or chores, or tidying their house.
- Connect them with resources. If the person in question is not currently seeing a mental health professional, offer to help by connecting them with mental illness support services or mental illness support groups. If at any point you feel that they are a danger to themselves or others, consider taking them to the emergency room or calling a mental health crisis line.
- Be persistent, yet patient. Isolation is a common issue among people who deal with mental illness, especially if they struggle with feeling worthless. Showing that you're there for them by continuing to invite them to social events or staying in contact (even if they say no or don't reply) can go a long way toward helping them feel loved. Above all, try not to take it personally or get angry if they are unresponsive or seem to disappear.
- Be straightforward. When in doubt, don't be afraid to ask how they're feeling or how you can best support them. Talking about mental health can be uncomfortable sometimes, but your loved one will almost certainly appreciate a blunt question ("Would you like to talk about it, or would you like me to distract you with something fun?") rather than a misguided assumption or nothing at all.
Since 1948, Envision Unlimited has been dedicated to helping people with disabilities live happy, fulfilled lives in their communities. Our offerings, which include day programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; mental health, residential, and employment services; specialized foster care; and accredited applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy for children, are designed to address the unique needs of each of our clients—regardless of age, background, or ability.
Our services are grounded in a spirit of advocacy and empowerment. We believe that all individuals are capable of living successful lives if given the right opportunities. Contact us today to see how we can help you!