How to Support a Loved One Experiencing Mental Health Struggles

The Ability Toolbox is a disabled-owned small business. We use affiliate links, which means we may receive commissions at no added cost to you. Thanks!

 

Mental health is integral to our overall well-being, affecting how we think, feel, and act. Yet, despite its importance, mental health struggles are often misunderstood or stigmatized, leading many people to suffer in silence. The pressures and stresses of daily life can take a toll on anyone's mental health. As friends, family members, or colleagues, learning to recognize the signs of mental health struggles empowers us to offer support.

Recognize the Signs of Mental Health Struggles

The first step in supporting someone with a mental health problem is to recognize the signs. These signs may manifest differently depending on the individual and the type of mental health condition they're experiencing. Common indicators include sudden changes in behavior, such as increased irritability, withdrawal from social activities, or a noticeable decline in performance at work or school. Mood swings, persistent sadness, anxiety, or unexplained physical ailments can also be red flags.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling, create a safe and non-confrontational environment where they can feel comfortable expressing themselves. Avoid making assumptions about what they're going through. Instead, approach the situation with empathy and a genuine desire to understand their perspective.

Speak to Them About Seeking Professional Help

While offering support and being a listening ear is invaluable, professional intervention is often necessary for proper diagnosis and treatment. 

When initiating this conversation, approach them with sensitivity and empathy. Choose a private setting where they feel comfortable and respected. Assure them that professional support is available and can provide the tools and resources needed to manage their mental health effectively. 

Be sure to work with a professional who has pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online and has become licensed as a mental health professional as they can empower you to understand mental health issues in a better way.

Educate Yourself About Mental Health

Understanding mental health conditions and their impact can help you provide more effective support. Take the time to educate yourself about different mental health disorders, their symptoms, and treatment options. This knowledge will not only help you better understand what the person is going through but also enable you to offer informed support and guidance. 

Offer Practical Support

In addition to emotional support, offering practical assistance can greatly alleviate the burden for someone dealing with mental health issues. This can include helping with daily tasks such as cooking meals, running errands, or providing transportation to appointments. By lending a helping hand, you're showing that you care and are willing to lighten their load during difficult times.

Be Patient and Understanding

Supporting someone with a mental health problem requires patience and understanding. Recovery is often a slow and nonlinear process, and setbacks are common along the way. It's essential to remain patient and avoid placing unrealistic expectations on the individual or their progress. Understand that they may experience good days and bad days, and be prepared to offer support and encouragement consistently.

Moreover, demonstrating understanding is key. While you may not fully comprehend what they're going through, showing empathy and validating their feelings can make a world of difference. Avoid minimizing their experiences or dismissing their emotions. Instead, reassure them that their feelings are valid and that you're there to support them through the ups and downs.

Encourage Self-Care Practices

Encouraging self-care promotes mental health and well-being. Self-care involves activities and practices that nurture the mind, body, and soul, helping people cope with stress and maintain balance in their lives. Encourage the person to prioritize self-care activities that bring them joy and relaxation; this can include practicing mindfulness or picking up new hobbies.

Additionally, encourage them to treat themselves with kindness and to prioritize their own needs and well-being. By practicing self-care, they can build resilience and better cope with the challenges they face.

Stay Connected and Available

Maintain regular communication and stay connected to your loved one with a mental illness even when times are tough. Even if you're unable to physically be with them, simple gestures such as sending a text message or giving them a call can go a long way in letting them know that you care. Let them know that you're there to listen, offer advice, or simply provide a shoulder to lean on whenever they need it. 

Set Boundaries When Necessary

You can't support others while neglecting your own needs. When supporting someone with a mental illness, set boundaries to protect your own well-being. Supporting someone with a mental health problem can be emotionally taxing, and it's OK to prioritize your own needs and limitations. Communicate openly with the person about what you can and cannot offer in terms of support, and be honest about your own boundaries.

Setting boundaries may involve limiting the time or energy you invest in supporting them, or establishing guidelines for communication and interaction. You can strike a balance between being supportive and maintaining your own mental health. 

Celebrate Progress and Offer Encouragement

Finally, celebrate the small victories and milestones along the person's recovery journey. Whether it's attending a therapy session, trying a new coping strategy, or simply getting out of bed in the morning, acknowledge their efforts and achievements. Celebrating progress, no matter how small, can boost their confidence and motivation to continue working towards their goals.

Remind them of their strengths and resilience, and reassure them that they're not alone in their struggles. Your support and belief in their ability to overcome challenges can make a significant difference in their recovery journey.

Conclusion

By recognizing the signs, encouraging professional help, listening without judgment, offering practical support, and educating yourself about mental health, you can make a meaningful difference in their lives. Remember to be patient, understanding, and compassionate, and to prioritize self-care and set boundaries when necessary. Together, we can create a more supportive and empathetic community where everyone feels valued and understood.

 

Follow me down the rabbit hole!

I'm Alice and I live with a dizzying assortment of invisible disabilities, including ADHD and fibromyalgia. I write to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental and chronic illnesses of all kinds. 

The Ability Toolbox
Register New Account