If someone you love is dealing with mental illness, you know firsthand how helpless you can feel. How do you go about helping someone who is dealing with something so personal and hard? It can be difficult to know what to say or do.
The good news is that you’re not alone! One out of every five adults in the United States deals with mental illness. That’s why we’ve created this resource to show you how to support someone and help with mental illness.
Professionals Are Standing By
A mental illness is a disorder that can change the way someone feels, thinks, and behaves. These disorders can range in severity from simple anxiety or depression to more severe disorders like schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder. The cause for each of these illnesses varies, and the treatments are different depending on a variety of factors.
One aspect that doesn’t change is their need for support from the people around them.
It can be difficult or even scary to handle, but it’s important that you keep in mind that the symptoms of these disorders can be managed, and people with mental illnesses can go on to live happy, fulfilling lives once they start treatment and get help with mental illness.
One way we often try to help our loved ones is by being positive. There is certainly something to be said for the power of positive thinking! But for people who have a mental illness, this mindset can sometimes do more harm than good. Toxic positivity is the assumption that, no matter what someone is going through, it’s always responded to with a positive, happy outlook. Rather than supporting optimism, this minimizes and denies real problems that mentally ill people face every day. So while you think that your “just smile about it!” attitude is helping, it could be doing a real disservice to someone who is clinically depressed. Unfortunately, they have a chemical imbalance that makes that nearly impossible and the last thing they need is to be reminded of it.
Another way that you can support someone with a mental illness is to understand the stigma that they face. Luckily, this mindset is starting to fade as a new generation comes of age. They are challenging the idea of thinking of a mental illness as a weakness. You can help with this as well. Remember that a mental illness is only different from a physical illness in terms of the way it is treated. There is nothing wrong or shameful about seeking help and treatment. Be open about your own struggles and willing to discuss issues if your loved one is interested.
There are a few things you should stay away from mentioning. We’ve already discussed steering clear of toxic positivity. Another topic to avoid is comparing your own struggles with theirs. We often say “I know how you feel” as a way to relate and show support. In the moment, the statement can feel minimizing and dismissive. Every person is different. You don’t know how they feel. You can’t, and that’s okay! Instead, take time to listen and try to understand your loved one just wants to feel heard. Be a source of strength and compassion. Spend your time together learning how to be a good listener.
Self-care is a buzzword used a lot nowadays. But it’s a critically important part of our lives that we often neglect! Remind your loved ones that taking care of themselves needs to be a priority. Sometimes this means that it’s okay to spend the day in bed with a book, blocking out the world for a while. Other times, it means showering and brushing your teeth in the morning even if you feel like you can’t get out of bed. This is especially important for people with mental illness. It’s so easy to forget to take care of ourselves when our minds aren’t operating in a typical way.
Help with Mental Illness
Now that you know how to support someone with mental illness, you can confidently reach out to your friends and family who are suffering. Your support can make all the difference in someone’s life.
At the Mental Health Center of San Diego, we are here to help. A variety of treatment options are available for mental health disorders that can help your loved one feel less overwhelmed in life.
For more information about mental health and wellness, contact us today.