Watching a loved one struggle with a mental illness can feel helpless. As a bystander, it’s important to know the best ways to support and help someone who is struggling. Offering support, love, and encouragement no matter the circumstance looks the same no matter if it’s a mental health illness or a troubled time.
Behaviors to Lookout For
Not all of the following behaviors are direct indicators of a mental health illness. However, it’s not necessarily important to know if someone’s struggle is with a mental health illness or a troubled time. If you have a coworker, close friend, or loved one who is showing the following behaviors, it is important to reach out and offer your support.
- Increased apathy or lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
- Inability to cope with sudden changes
- Lack of interest in things they used to enjoy
- A drastic change in eating patterns
- Using other substances such as drinking heavily/drugs/food to cope
- Constant mood swings with little or no reason
- Lack of enjoyment for life
- Change in sleep patterns
- Seem anxious or terrified about situations or objects that seem normal to you and others
- They mention hearing voices or having unsettling thoughts
- They often talk about ending their life or feeling hopeless
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Significant tiredness, low energy
These behaviors become increasingly alarming if they persist for several weeks or even months. Below we’ll cover some of the best ways to offer help and support to your loved ones as they go through these challenges.
How to Offer Support
Ask How To Help: No person or situation is the exact same. What you might think is the perfect way to help someone, might actually be triggering for them. One of the best ways to offer support to someone going through a tough time is to ask them what you can do to help. Depending on your relationship, what you can do for them might look different compared to what someone else can do to help. Always make sure that you are checking in to see how you can improve your help and support.
Encourage Treatment: Treatment for a mental illness often involves therapy or medication or a combination of the two. The first steps to meeting with a doctor can be hard and spike feelings of anxiety or helplessness. Offer to help make appointments, and attend appointments with an individual if necessary. Consider helping your loved ones write down their questions and concerns before going to make sure you get the information you need.
Listen: Often someone going through a difficult situation, or dealing with a mental illness can feel alone and afraid. Be aware of sensitive topics and try not to pry, but be willing to listen. Refrain from offering solutions or advice to the problems, but instead, listen and ask questions to understand and offer emotional support.
Widen Your Support Circle: Helping someone with a mental illness should not be done alone. Make sure that you are not sacrificing your own mental health in order to provide support and help to your loved one. Be sure to ask others to help in order to offer the best support possible.