mental health support - Dos and Don’ts

The Dos and Don’ts of Supporting a Loved One with Mental Health Challenges

When a loved one is dealing with mental health challenges, we often want to provide support but it can be tough to know what to say or do during these tough situations. Often, we worry so much about saying the wrong thing and end up saying nothing at all. Showing support with even small gestures of care can make a significant difference. Here are some practical tips on what to do and what to avoid when offering support for a loved one who is dealing with mental health diagnoses. 

Dos: How to Support Someone with Mental Health Issues

1. Educate Yourself: One of the best ways to support your loved one is to learn about their mental health condition. This knowledge can help you understand what they’re going through and recognize symptoms and behaviors that might warrant additional care. 

2. Listen Without Judgment: When your loved one shares their thoughts and feelings, listen actively and without judgment. Show empathy and validate their emotions. Avoid interrupting or offering unsolicited advice. Just being there and showing you care can be incredibly comforting for them.

mental health support

3. Encourage Professional Help: Encourage your loved one to seek professional help if they haven’t already. Offer to help them find a therapist and/or psychiatrist. You may offer to accompany them to appointments if they feel comfortable. Professional support can be very important for managing their mental health conditions.

4. Check-In Regularly: Consistently check in with your loved one. A simple text or call to ask how they’re doing can make a big difference. Regular check-ins show that you care and that they are not alone in their struggles. It’s important to be patient and persistent, even if they don’t always respond​. 

5. Practice Self-Care Together: Encourage doing some self-care activities together. Whether it’s exercising, meditating, or cooking a healthy meal, doing these activities together can boost their mood and strengthen your relationship with one another. Encouraging healthy habits can support their mental health journey positively​​.

Don’ts: What to Avoid When Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

1. Don’t Compare Their Experience to Others: Everyone’s experience with mental health is unique. Avoid comparing their situation to others or minimizing their feelings by saying things like, “Everyone feels that way sometimes.” These comparisons can invalidate their experiences and feelings​.

2. Don’t Use Stigmatizing Language: Be mindful of the language you use when talking about mental health. Avoid using terms like “crazy” or “insane,” and don’t make light of their condition by saying things like “Just snap out of it.” Language can significantly impact their self-esteem and willingness to seek help​.

mental health issues

3. Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice: While it’s natural to want to help by offering solutions, unsolicited advice can sometimes do more harm than good. Instead, ask open-ended questions like, “How can I support you?” or “What do you need right now?” This approach respects their autonomy and gives them control over their care​.

4. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally: Your loved one’s mental health challenges might cause them to act in ways that seem distant or unresponsive. Remember that these behaviors are not reflections of their feelings towards you. Be patient and give them the space they need while continuing to offer your support​.

5. Don’t Overwhelm Yourself: Supporting someone with a mental health condition can sometimes be emotionally taxing. It’s important to take care of your own mental health too. Set boundaries and seek support from friends, family, or support groups. Taking care of yourself ensures that you can continue to be there for your loved one effectively​.

Final Thoughts

Supporting a loved one with mental health challenges requires compassion, patience, and understanding. By educating yourself and showing up for those you care about, you can make a positive impact on their journey. 
You can find more information and valuable resources on supporting someone with mental health issues by visiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Responsibly edited by AI

Animo Sano Psychiatry is open for patients in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and New York. If you’d like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.

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