Caring & Comprehensive
How to Help a Loved One with Mental Illness
If someone you love is dealing with mental illness, you know first hand the kind of helplessness 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 do or say.
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 created this resource to show you how to support someone with mental illness. Keep reading to learn more.
The Reality of Mental Illness
A mental illness is a sickness that can change the way someone feels, thinks, and behaves. These illnesses can range in severity from simple anxiety and depression to more severe schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The causes for each of these illnesses vary and the treatments are different depending on a variety of factors.
One thing that doesn’t change is their need for support from people around them.
It can be difficult or even scary, but it’s important that you keep in mind that these disorders can be treated. Folks with mental illnesses live fulfilling, happy lives once they’ve found treatment and help.
Encourage Them to Seek Help
The most important thing you can do is encourage them to seek help. Mental illness may seem obvious to friends and family on the outside, but often to the people living with it every day, it’s hard to see.
If you’ve noticed these signs in someone you love, stay calm. The best thing you can do is encourage them to find help from a trained professional.
The stigma around mental health is a touchy subject for many. It may be difficult to know the best way to approach the topic. Don’t use frightening language or place blame on your loved one.
Something as simple as “I’ve noticed you seem more upset than usual” can go a long way. You could also try something like “I’ve noticed you don’t seem like yourself lately.” Back up your statements with facts while being gentle.
It’s important that your loved one knows the only goal is to help them feel better.
The Pitfalls of Toxic Positivity
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, they should always have a positive, happy outlook. Rather than supporting optimism, it 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.
The last thing they need is to be reminded of it.