Watching a friend or family member struggle with a mental illness can be stressful. They may be scared of its development. They may not even realize it’s happening. Your support will help them get through it.

It can be hard to know how to provide support, though. You know your loved ones and you know how they interact with others. You can detect behavior that is out of the ordinary as an early sign of mental illness. Keep reading to learn how to approach the situation and provide the support they need.

Approach the Situation with Care

Start by reminding yourself that the advent of a mental illness is most stressful for the person experiencing it. Symptoms vary by illness, but in many cases, people will find themselves unable to do things they were previously able to. As you approach the situation, reassure your loved one that you care for him or her. Knowing they have your support will make it easier for them to cope.

Discuss the situation in an age-appropriate manner. Remember that children need fewer details than teenagers. Elderly people may already have a basic understanding of the illness, so more emotional support than explanation will be necessary. 

Talk to your loved one at a time and place where they feel comfortable. Use “I” statements to keep them at ease while you form a plan to seek care. Ask, “What can I do to help you through this?” and say, “I care about you and want to listen.” Avoiding “you” statements like, “You should get help from a therapist,” will help them feel more loved and less attacked.

Educate Yourself

Take the time to learn about mental illnesses. Research the specific mental illness your loved one is facing to discover short-term and long-term effects of the condition. Ask your doctor about the mental illness your loved one is battling. He or she can provide you with specific instructions.

Encourage Them to Seek Help

Inform your friend or family member that help is always available. Research local therapists and physicians and arrange a consultation. Meeting with a professional can provide your family with more tips to cope with mental illness. Many illnesses can be treated; stubborn individuals may oppose treatment, however. Remind them that seeking treatment is a sign of strength. This is the first step toward recovery.

Middle-aged lady smiles as she hands a mug to an elderly woman sitting in bed

Help with the Everyday Tasks

Your loved one may find it newly difficult to perform standard tasks. Help them cope by assisting with their everyday activities. Make sure they are involved when you make plans. Continue to invite him or her to spend time with you. Your loved one may resist your invitation, but including them in plans will help maintain a sense of normalcy. Above all, treat them with kindness. People with mental illnesses tend to be hard on themselves. Help them through the trial by showing empathy.

Take Care of Yourself

It’s hard to take care of others when you aren’t in a healthy mental state yourself. Identify the ways that you cope with stress and do those things. For many people, that means doing yoga, taking a walk outdoors, or talking to a friend. While your loved one copes with a mental illness, you are coping with helping them. Make sure you take time to manage your stress.

Professional Help Is Simply a Message Away

Mental illnesses take families by surprise. Help your loved ones by identifying early signs and encouraging them to seek treatment. Educate yourself about the conditions of mental illnesses so that you can develop compassion for those facing them. Take care of yourself as you take care of others. Seek help from a physician to discover more tips. As we mentioned, professional help is always available to you or your loved one. Start today by contacting Dr. Anthony Termine, an expert psychiatrist, for further instruction.