Today, we wanted get loud about how to be a good friend to someone in your life who has mental illness and that includes yourself! Here are eight ways you can support someone you know who are struggling and even take care of yourself:
1. Listen. It takes courage to talk about emotional problems or mental health concerns. Sometimes the best thing a friend or family member can do is lend an ear. Focus on what the other person is saying rather than thinking of what you will say next, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something. Don’t offer “quick fixes” or advice unless they ask you for it.
2. Help the person find support. Offer phone numbers and names of organizations that can help them find their way to better health. Offer to make calls and set up appointments, and drive them to appointments if they ask you to and you are able. Tell them to check out Girlville for helpful information and resources.
3. Don’t judge or blame. Whether a mental illness is caused by genetics, trauma or a chemical imbalance, it’s not the individual’s fault. Reiterate that out loud to the person you are supporting.
4. Help the person remain hopeful. Point out that he or she will get better with treatment, time and support. Remind them that you and others will support them.
5. Don’t label. Remember your friend, peer or family member has a medical condition, but he or she is not the illness, nor are they defined by it.
6. Be patient. The journey to mental health takes times and can often take more than one treatment. A mental illness is not something a person can just choose to “snap out of.” Be mindful that there may also be periods of improved mental health followed by periods of challenges before long-term mental health is achieved.
7. Pay special attention to what that person needs. If someone is having challenges, ask what they need and listen to the answers. Ask them or brainstorm together how they think you could best help.
8. Celebrate success. Recognize positive steps a person experiencing mental illness takes no matter how small a step might seem. For example, if a person has been too depressed to get out of bed, them having a shower or going for a short walk is a big improvement and should be celebrated.
Get loud and let the people in your life with mental illness know that you understand and you care!