Supporting Your Loved One With Mental Health Concerns
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
Do you have a friend or family member struggling with their mental health and do not know how to support them? The topic of mental health can be difficult to approach. A lot of people do not know how to support loved ones with mental health issues even if they may struggle with mental issues themselves. You are definitely not alone. The holiday season can be stressful time for people, which may worsen some mental health concerns.
A good starting point can be looking for signs of their mental health distress. Often, people struggling with their mental health will have changes in their eating and sleeping patterns. Some other notable signs include decreased interest in hobbies, mood swings, low mood, increased irritability, persistent negative thoughts/feelings, appearing more stressed/anxious, missing important events, using unhealthy coping skills like drinking, and self-isolating.
It can be helpful to approach your loved one with understanding as you share your concerns about their mental health. It is also important to avoid blaming and/or criticizing them. They are likely already down on themselves, so further criticism is not helpful. You can start by addressing your concern for them, then asking how you can support them. Example: “I noticed you have not been eating…I’m concerned and want to help. How can I support you?” If they do not know what they need, you can both brainstorm together.
If your loved one is struggling with a specific mental health concern, it can be helpful to offer helplines, so they can receive additional support. You may also suggest to your loved one that initiating therapy can be another option. If your loved one already has a therapist, you can see if they are ok with you joining their session and speaking to their therapist on how to support them. Some therapists are open to this and may ask you to share your observations/concerns.
Do not discount the significance of your emotional support. Your support can be a huge buffer and remind them they are not alone. Your loved one may feel more open to seeking additional support with your understanding and encouragement.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a great resource for supporting your loved one with their mental health struggles. They also have great support groups for people with loved ones struggling with mental health conditions: https://nami.org/Home
If you are struggling to support your loved one and want therapeutic services for yourself with us, feel free to reach out to us through our site.
Stay tuned. The next topic is "Grief."
Written by Elena Duong, Psy.D.
Edited by Susanna La, Ph.D.