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7 Ways to Help a Loved One Who's Struggling With Mental Illness

When a Family Member or Friend Needs You, Here's How to Support Them

What's the best way to help someone you care about when they're struggling with their mental health?

It's a tough question, and there's no single correct answer — everyone is different, after all. But, even though it can be difficult to know how to be there for someone in their time of need, you can still help. Here are 7 tips for how to help a loved one who's struggling.

1. Start with some research

Before you do anything else, spend some time familiarizing yourself with the specific type of mental illness your loved one is experiencing. For example, personality disorders like schizophrenia are often riddled with stereotypes , which aren't helpful to anyone.

Once you've reviewed some clinical information, read personal accounts or watch interviews with someone who has similar problems. This helps humanize things, which is incredibly helpful if you don't truly understand the other person's experience.

2. Accept their experience

Don't question someone's illness or pretend like nothing is wrong. No-strings-attached love and acceptance can be absolutely game-changing for someone who feels trapped inside their own mind.

3. Ask them how they feel

A person who's struggling with mental illness often feels alone, misunderstood, and like nobody cares. That's why this simple gesture can have such a big impact. Don't just focus on the mental aspects, either — ask about their physical response, too.

As you listen , really focus on what the other person is saying and try to imagine what it might feel like to have no control over your mental and physical state.

4. Don't compare their experience to yours

Shared pain can bond people together, but be wary of getting into a “tit for tat” situation — your loved one might feel like you're trying to compete with or invalidate their struggles. The same goes for advice. Many times, a person just wants to talk and vent, and they aren't looking for solutions.

5. Ask them what they need

Everyone copes differently. Some people might feel comforted by a hug or other form of physical touch… and physical contact might send another person into a spiral of anxiety. Asking a person what they need means you won't make potentially damaging assumptions, and will also ensure you don't feel taken for granted if your help isn't well-received.

6. Never stop loving and accepting them

For people who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other kind of mental illness, social ostracization can be one of the most painful experiences to endure. Sometimes, people will even intentionally isolate themselves.

7. Don't forget to take care of yourself

Remember, you can't “cure” a loved one's mental illness on your own, and you can't rescue someone if you're drowning yourself. Self care is incredibly important, and you can still prioritize it while supporting someone else.

If you are struggling to support a loved one with a mental illness our caring therapists can help. Contact us today!