What Can You Do To Help A Friend Struggling With Mental Illness?

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Studies suggest that around 20% of Americans are living with a mental illness. If you have a loved one who is struggling, it can be difficult to know how to help. If you want to be supportive, here are some tips. 


The most important thing you can do if you have a friend or a family member who has a mental illness is to listen. Communicating is a two-way path, but we often focus on talking. Talking can be hugely beneficial for people who have mental disorders, but it’s essential that the individual has somebody there to listen to them. If you are encouraging your loved one to talk to you, make sure you listen to what they are saying and give them time and space to open up.

Don’t apply pressure

Applying pressure to people who have symptoms of psychological disorders can be counterproductive. It is crucial that your loved one trusts you and that they feel comfortable speaking to you and confiding in you. This must be done at their pace. If you push too hard and you put too much pressure on them, they may be reluctant to speak to you and they may go back into their shell and want to hide away or avoid talking to anyone. Move at a speed that suits them and tread cautiously.

Try to understand

It’s incredibly challenging to understand mental illness if you have never had symptoms before and you don’t know what that person is going through. Try to understand by doing research and by encouraging your friend or relative to share their experiences with you. We tend to have perceptions or ideas about what it’s like to have a mental health disorder, which might not be accurate. Spend some time reading articles on reputable websites, speak to people who have been in a similar situation and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek professional advice. You may think you know about addiction, for example, but if somebody asked you the question, what is addiction, your answer may be very different to somebody who has an addiction. You might assume that you know what it’s like to have anxiety, but there is an important difference between feeling anxious sometimes and having an anxiety disorder. 

Help your loved one to seek advice

Reaching out isn’t easy. As a close friend or relative, you can help a loved one by encouraging them to take that first step. This may involve scheduling an appointment with a doctor, making a call to a helpline or joining a forum or group online to talk to people who have been in the same situation. You may find that a friend is more likely to make that first call or go to an appointment or therapy session if you are there to support or reassure them. 

It can be incredibly difficult to watch someone you care about struggling with a mental illness. One of the hardest parts is knowing what to do to help. If you have a loved one in need of support or advice, take these tips on board. 


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