How to Help Someone with Mental Illness Get Help

Millions of people struggle with a mental health problem each year. Almost every person living in America either knows someone or has a family member who has a mental illness. With the prevalence of these conditions, it is now more important than ever to know exactly how to help a friend or family member who may have a mental illness.

Tips to Help a Loved One with a Mental Health Condition

There are various ways to go about helping someone with a possible mental health disorder, including:

1. Know the Warning Signs

As friends or family members, we can’t diagnose our loved ones with a mental disorder, but we can familiarize ourselves with the warning signs that indicate something is wrong. These signs include:1

  • Antisocial behaviors
  • Difficulty keeping up with work or school
  • Memory or thought impairments
  • Feeling disconnected from reality
  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme or sudden mood swings
  • Thoughts or mentions of suicide
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual

These signs may indicate your loved one is struggling with a mental illness, and you should continue using other points on this list to assist them.

2. Encourage Them to Take a Mental Health Screening

There is no magic test to diagnose exactly what mental illness you may have. Still, there are several online mental health screens you can encourage your loved one to take to identify if they may have a problem and need professional help. Offering to take it with them may also help them feel more at ease with the idea of the test.

3. Help Them Find a Therapist or Psychiatrist if Necessary

Finding the right mental health professionals to help should your loved one need therapy can also help encourage them to seek help and feel like they have your full support. Often fears of being judged by friends and family may keep people from actively seeking professional help.

4. Find a Support Group for Their Condition

There are typically many different mental health services available in the community. Reach out to find support groups or counselors that can help your loved one deal with their diagnosis, as well as support you in your efforts to assist them.

5. Educate Yourself on Mental Disorders

Learning about mental illnesses, their causes, and their symptoms is essential for understanding what your loved one is going through. You can find more information about these mental disorders online or from your local community mental health counselors or advocates.

6. Start a Judgment-Free Conversation About What They’re Experiencing

People with mental illnesses are often afraid to speak up for fear of being judged or ridiculed. Initiating a conversation about mental health in an open, judgment-free setting can help them find the courage to discuss what they’re feeling and possibly ask for help if they think they need it.2

7. Help Them Remember to Take Their Medication and Stick to Their Doctor Appointments

Reminding your loved one to take their medication, educating yourself on their side effects, and accompanying them to doctor’s appointments can show you support their journey toward recovery and healing.

8. Provide Emotional Support

If you are a close friend or family member, you may struggle with the idea that sometimes mental illnesses aren’t curable or preventable. At times, the best thing you can do is simply provide emotional support, offer a listening ear, and try to help your loved one manage their condition in a healthy way.

What to Do if Someone Is Suicidal

If you believe your loved one is in danger of harming themselves, stay calm and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If your loved one needs urgent help but refuses to seek it themselves, you may need to get your local social services involved. They may section your loved one for treatment, meaning they will take them to the hospital to get help without their prior consent.

According to the Mental Health Act, sectioning is only approved after a psychological evaluation at the request of a close friend or family member.3 This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it’s recommended you discuss your options with other friends or family members of the person needing help.

What Not to Do When Trying to Help Someone with Mental Health Issues

Although you may have your loved one’s best interests at heart, there are some things you should not do while trying to help them, including:

  • Calling them out for their behavior in front of others
  • Accusing them of being weak or unwilling to get help for themselves
  • Ridiculing them for their behavior
  • Judging them for their actions or struggles at work or school
  • Dismissing their requests for help or someone to talk to

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If you or a loved one suffers from a mental health condition, contact our team at 855-414-8100 to find the professional help and advice you need.