Mental health is one of those topics that many people have encountered in their lifetime, because they suffer from it, or because they know someone that does. If someone that you love has mental illness, you may not know how you’re supposed to treat them, or if you’re going to be able to help them if they’re in need. So, if you have someone in your life who is struggling with mental illness and you need some help with helping them, here are some tips to help you out.
Let them talk about what’s going on in their life. Sometimes, your loved one just wants someone to listen to them. Instead of talking their ear off or being eager to do something, just listen! That’s good enough sometimes, because they need someone to vent to. Remember - you don't necessarily have to understand what they're going through; being empathetic will be enough for them.
Ask pointed questions to let them know that you want to understand their diagnosis. Once you know that your loved one is dealing with a particular mental illness, ask them about it. Try to understand it better, even ask them to describe how they feel and what they’re doing on a regular basis. That doesn’t only show you care about them and what is going on in their life, but it also helps you do the next tip effectively.
Do not avoid them or run away if you’re unsure on how to help them; instead, ask them what you need to do in order to help them. Ask them how you can help them relax after a panic attack, or how to get past the feelings of depression and anxiety that may be overwhelming them right now. That way, you'll be better prepared and they'll understand that you're there to help and encourage them. Many people with mental illness are afraid of being abandoned, so by taking this particular step, you can really assuage those fears.
Just love them, like you do everyone else in your life. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Hang out with them, play games, go to the movies, whatever you both like to do, just do it! Most of the time, you don’t have to do anything special or different for them at all, you just have to be there. If someone is there, they are more likely to open up and it will help give them strength and confidence.
So, instead of treating your loved one like they’re from another planet, you can use the tips listed above in order to be part of their support system. Even though they may not always express it, they will appreciate what you are doing immensely.