We all have mental health. And an estimated 1 in 4 of us will struggle with our mental health at some point in our lives.
In the United States alone, an estimated 1 in 5 adults experiences either depression or anxiety every year. In the United Kingdom, an estimated 1 in 6 adults will experience a common mental health problem in any given week.
We know that people are struggling, but what if it’s someone we know? What if it’s one of our closest relatives or friends? How can we be there to support them?
Instead of panicking or ignoring the problem, let’s take a look at some practical ways to support our loved ones with their mental health in their time of need.
DO listen and validate their feelings
If you want to encourage your loved one to keep talking, focus on asking questions that require more than a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Even if you do not necessarily understand what your loved one is going through, responding with a simple “that sounds really difficult” can be very comforting.
DO ask how you can help
This is not the time to make assumptions. What someone else needs is not necessarily what you need. For example, I am a “words of affirmation” and “acts of service” type of person. The way to my heart is telling me that I’m doing a good job, that you see me and value me, or possibly helping out with a task. However, this may not be what others need when they are struggling.
DO make sure to celebrate the small wins
Maybe just going to work is difficult. If you see your loved one in a new outfit or trying out a new hairstyle, compliment them. If doing anything in the evenings after work has been super hard for them, but you notice they took the dog for a walk, celebrate it! Every win matters when your loved one is battling depression or other mental health issues.
DO read up on what your loved one is struggling with
There is a wealth of knowledge on all things mental health, and it’s available free of charge online. When seeking information, always make sure that it is written by professionals and published by accredited organizations.
Here are some wonderful places to start:
- The Lily-Jo Project’s self-help resource (www.thelilyjoproject.com/#help)
- Mind – (www.mind.org.uk)
- NHS – (www.nhs.uk/mental-health)
DO check in regularly, normalize talking about mental health, and recognize that not everyone’s struggle looks the same
What my depression looks like (staying exhausted, losing interest in things that once brought me joy, feeling like I was moving all the time but making no progress, etc.) looks very different than what my husband experiences with depression. He tends to be more irritable, not sad.
By keeping the conversation open with your loved one, you’ll be able to stay in tune with how they are feeling. You’ll also have a better feel for how to support them.
DON’T compare your experience to theirs or engage in “toxic positivity”
Your loved one does not need a contest over who has been through “worse.” Keep the focus on their experience, and avoid phrases like “you shouldn’t be feeling sad, you have so much to be grateful for.”
DON’T use stigmatizing language
Telling your friend or loved one that he or she is “crazy” or being “overly dramatic” simply perpetuates the stigma that mental health issues are something to be ashamed of.
DON’T take it personally
I like to use the handy acronym “Q-TIP” which stands for “Quit Taking It Personally”. Avoid being confrontational and recognize that your loved one’s behaviors are in response to what they are going through.
DON’T be easily discouraged
It’s like when you first start being intentional about healthy habits…at first, you can’t see the difference that swapping the cookie for an apple or working out thirty to forty-five minutes a day is doing for you. However, with time and consistency, you get visible results. Initially, it may seem like you aren’t able to do much for your friend or loved one. However, by maintaining your support over time, your loved one will likely improve.
Further Resources on Supporting Others
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on supporting others with mental health.
- Article from The Lily-Jo Project, Suicide Awareness – How to Help a Friend When They are Feeling Helpless
- Information from the NHS, Helping others with mental health problems
- Resource from The Mental Health Foundation, How to support someone with a mental health problem
- Resource from Mind, Helping someone else
Here at The Lily Jo Project, we offer a variety of mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance. We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family and mental health issues in general.
I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.