6 Tips To Support Someone Suffering From Mental Illness

Mental Health Week starts on May 16, and there’s a good chance someone you know and love has been diagnosed with mental illness. Perhaps you’re concerned your friend has an issue, but she has not sought treatment yet.

Either way, you can be an extraordinary source of support.


6 Ways You Can Be Of Help

The tips below should help you offer practical and caring assistance to a person with mental illness.

1. Be Available/Pitch In With Tasks

One of the most important things you can do to help a mentally-ill friend is just make it clear you’re ready to help. Express that intention through an open-ended statement such as, “Please let me know what I can do to provide you with the best support I can.”


You can also offer to do specific things by asking something like, “Would you like me to drive you to the pharmacy to pick up your prescription?”

2. Be A Good Listener

If your friend brings up mental illness during a conversation, that’s a strong indicator he or she feels comfortable around you. During the discussion, listen intently and resist offering advice or trying to make light of the subject.


Also, assure your friend you won’t betray trust by disclosing what was said to others. The one exception is if your friend threatens suicide or otherwise talks about self-harm or hurting others.

3. Offer To Find Help

As mentioned above, there may be cases when your friend displays common signs of a mental health problem but has not yet gotten help. You may be able to encourage your friend to seek professional care by researching area providers or finding out about payment options and insurance policies. If income is a barrier to getting help, some providers give treatment on a sliding scale.


Many people are surprised to learn almost 60 percent of mentally ill adults haven’t gotten treatment. Lack of information about local resources is just one reason for that statistic. Some people are too embarrassed to admit they need treatment, or may not even realize a problem exists.

By reaching out to help the friend get the professional guidance she needs, you’re demonstrating you don’t see the mental illness as something to be ashamed of.


4. Include Them In Your Plans

People with mental illnesses often withdraw from loved ones. Even if you notice that’s happening, keep inviting your friend to social events as you did before the mental illness became problematic.

The person may decline, but it’s important to let him know you’re still invested in the relationship.


5. Educate Others About Mental Illness

You may be somewhat familiar with how mental illnesses affect people, but it’s likely you’ll have a lot to learn while supporting your friend.1 As your knowledge grows, try and share it with those you know.

While it’s not appropriate to drown out the voice and perspective of the person with the mental illness, you could make a very positive impact by trying to correct frequent misunderstandings.


6. Be More Empathetic

One way to do that is to attempt to increase the empathy people have toward individuals with mental illness by comparing it to physical ailments. Although there are some differences, discussing how the two kinds of problems are similar may aid in creating more authentic perspectives.

For example, people with mental illnesses are often told to “just try and feel better” and may be urged by well-meaning but uneducated friends to avoid taking medication. However, neither of those pieces of advice would likely be given to someone who has a severe case of the flu.

Supporting a mentally ill friend can be tough, but merely being willing to make an effort is crucial. The information above should help you feel more confident about letting your pal know you’ll be by his side throughout what’s ahead.