It can be completely overwhelming to be in a relationship, a family member, friend or coworker of someone suffering with a mental illness. I have had friends who have suffered with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addictions, bipolar and panic disorders. I understand that it is frustrating to handle all the emotions and challenges that come along with mental illnesses.
1. The first step in supporting someone with a mental illness to just listen. Listening to their struggle or reaching out when you know they are trying to isolate is so important. Let them know you are listening without judgment and you are here for them. You’d be surprised with how many people have mental illnesses that may be in your life right now who aren’t saying anything due to fear of judgment. Try using phrases like
“I understand. This sounds like it is really hard for you right now. Is there something I could do to help? I am here to listen”
2. Making time for someone with mental illness can be one of the hardest steps. You have your own life, your own family, your own needs and possibly even your own health concerns. If you have a friend or someone in your life that is suffering, make sure you are reaching out every few days. It is important to note that mental illnesses are not a choice. This is not something that the person is making up to gain your attention, this is something that is truly just as serious as a physical health concern. Once you start treating mental illnesses the same as something like a physical disease, it becomes a lot easier to support. You wouldn’t give up on a friend with cancer or liver disease, so make sure you are supporting your friends which chronic depression or anxiety.
Here are a few quick activities to do with a friend with mental illness
- Send a quick positive text in the morning like this “Hey Friend! I was thinking about you this morning. I hope you can get outside today, it is beautiful!”
- Plan a coffee/lunch/dinner date for the two of you. It is important for those suffering to have something to look forward to.
- Bring a meal to them and help them around the house. Make sure your loved one is taking care of himself/herself. Spend some time with them in their space.
3. Offer to support them through their journey. It can be very overwhelming seeking help for a mental illness. I know that when I mentioned wanting to go to therapy or see a psychiatrist I was met with a mixed bag of opinions. From family it was “You are wasting your money!” “Why pay someone $100 an hour just to agree with everything you are saying”? Friends were much more supportive saying things like “Give it a try, if it works it works”. Obviously the latter is much more helpful but I would take it a step further. I think it is OK to offer up helping them find a therapist or a psychiatrist that meets their needs. It is OK to offer to take them to their first appointment. It is OK to check in with them about how it went.
In conclusion, stop treating mental illness like they are a choice. Treat mental illnesses like you do physical illness or disease. Help your loved ones to understand that they have a supportive friend in you.
Have you ever asked yourself how do I support someone with depression or anxiety better?
Do you have advice for others who are supporting loved ones through mental illness?
Resources To Help:
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