Mental illnesses can be difficult to spot, but they’re more common than you may think. As a matter of fact, according to Mental Health America, 1 in 5 American adults suffer from some form of mental illness. A mental illness is can come in many forms, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, Bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts, addiction, etc. Given this information, it’s very likely there is someone you know that is battling a mental illness. It’s our natural instinct to want to help our loved ones, but how can we do that with mental health?
Everything starts with listening. Give your loved one a chance to tell you how they’re feeling. Make sure you’re practicing active listening. Remain focused on the conversation at hand and really pay attention to what they’re saying. It’s also important to remain free of judgments. They may say some things will hurt to hear, but it’s important you let them be as honest as possible about what they’re going through. If you suspect that your loved one is battling a mental illness, but they haven’t said anything, try asking them routinely how their day is going. You don’t want to force them into talking, let them open up and share as much as they feel comfortable with.
The next step in helping your loved one is to learn more about their mental illness. There are tons of resources available online for free that will tell you all about specific mental illnesses. Learn about warning signs, learn about what the mental illness makes them feel like, learn where and how to get them help, etc. Becoming more knowledgeable on mental illness may make it easier on your loved one when they talk to you because you will have an understanding of what it really is like.
Offer and encourage help:
The simple truth is, when someone is dealing with a mental illness, they need help. It’s easy for them to say they don’t need it or don’t want it, but you must encourage them to seek help. Sometimes they may just need a loved one to talk to, other times they may need professional help. Either way, you will want to encourage this. Start by simply asking them, “What can I do to help you?” Getting help early makes addressing the mental illness much easier.
This goes hand in hand in with helping them, but it’s still important to talk about on its own. Support can come in many forms too. It can be little things like routinely checking in with your loved one without being overbearing, reminding them to take their medication, helping them set up appointments for help, and so on. As their loved one, you have the ability to support them in ways others cannot.
If you or your loved ones are struggling with a mental illness, here is a list of resources you can use for help:
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Mental Health America: https://www.mhanational.org/
National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/Home
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: https://www.dbsalliance.org/
National Institute on Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml