How to Help
Being open and available for your loved one and expressing your care and concern can be the biggest help of all. The care and support of family, friends, and other loved ones can make a huge difference for someone living with a mental health or substance use disorder, or someone who is simply going through a tough time. One of the ways you can help is by being available to talk, help them make phone calls to set up appointments, and to offer to go with them to their appointments with a health professional. Feeling alone or overwhelmed is common for individuals experiencing mental health challenges, so just knowing that you’re there for them can help immensely.
When talking to a loved one about their mental health, try to be as supportive, open, and patient as possible. Mental health issues can be incredibly difficult to talk about, especially for someone who is already feeling alone, confused, or overwhelmed. Remember that one of the most important, helpful things you can do is communicate with your loved one that you care. It’s also helpful to focus more on listening rather than on “fixing” a problem.
Let your loved one know that what they’re feeling and going through isn’t their fault and it’s much more common than most people think. You can also let them know that there is hope!
Being knowledgeable about mental health can help you be supportive in many ways. If you are familiar with signs of the most common disorders, you can spot them more easily. Plus, the more you know about mental health issues, the more sensitive you can be to what your loved one may be going through. You can learn about some of the most common disorders and find resources for each on our Common Conditions page and access free online training modules.
You can also be supportive of your loved one by helping them make informed decisions about seeking care if that’s what they decide to do. But remember, the choice is ultimately up to them. Looking into treatment when you’re already trying to cope with the symptoms of a mental health condition can be overwhelming and scary. Having someone who cares about you and is there to support you can be indispensable. In addition to reading up on mental health conditions, you can look for reliable, legitimate information and resources to share with your loved one.
If your loved one thinks they may have a mental health issue but isn’t sure, they can take a free, private online screening like the ones on the Mental Health America (MHA) site. They have many different screenings available and, at the bottom of the page, they offer advice on which screening to take. After someone takes a screening, they’ll be provided with information, resources, and tools to help them understand and improve their mental health.
Another way to help your loved one is to help them find a treatment provider if they decide to pursue treatment or want to look into testing for a diagnosis. One way to find treatment is by using our Find a Provider tool. If they’re more comfortable seeing their regular doctor about it first, encourage them to do so. It is important to remember that some providers may have waitlists. If your loved one comes across this in their search for a provider, you can help them shop around for other providers, encourage the use of self-care while waiting for appointment dates, and most importantly, encourage them not to give up on their search for help.
You can also offer to make those first appointments or to go with your loved one to the doctor. These initial steps can be difficult if your loved one doesn’t have much energy, is feeling a lot of anxiety, or is having problems with concentration. Additionally, help your loved one by assisting them in coming up with a list of questions to ask their doctor or treatment provider. It can be helpful to go into an appointment with a list of written questions so they don’t forget to mention critical information.
Ask your loved one how you can help. They are the expert on what they’re going through so they’ll be able to tell you best what they need.
Take Care of Yourself
Finally, taking care of yourself is important to make sure you can help someone else. Regarding your own health while helping someone else, consider doing things to manage your stress like having fun, eating healthy, being active, or talking to someone else. You can reach out to someone you know or consider joining a support group for family members of people with mental health conditions. If you’re interested in learning more about managing stress and taking care of your mental health, feel free to visit our Mental Health Wellness page and resources.