You might be worried about a friend or family member and want to help, but don’t feel well-equipped to provide support. It can be difficult to figure out if your loved one is going through a brief rough patch or struggling with something more serious. Plus, there may be many kinds of mental health obstacles and symptoms to consider.
Signs your loved one may need support
There are, however, signs you can look out for:
- Excessively worried or fearful
- Extremely sad or low-spirited
- Often irritable and angry
- Likely to change from one extreme mood to another
- Avoiding social engagement or activity
- Showing a change in eating or sleeping habits
- Having difficulty concentrating, learning, or understanding
- Overusing alcohol or drugs
- Struggling to distinguish what’s real and what’s not
- Considering suicide or self-harm
If your friend or family member is showing any of these signs, is unable to carry out daily tasks, or has a noticeable change in behavior or mood, don’t be afraid to reach out for more help. It’s also important to notice and respond to remarks about suicide. If you have any concerns, you can encourage your loved one to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
Tips for offering support
While it can feel uncomfortable to raise topics surrounding mental health with your loved ones, it’s an essential first step to finding them care. When you approach your friend or family member:
- Choose a place where you can speak privately and comfortably.
- Explain your concerns and reasoning.
- Ask questions, then listen without judgment.
- Pause the conversation or start over if your loved one becomes confused or upset.
- Provide reassurance that you care.
- Offer your support — this can be logistical and/or emotional.
- Remind them that they’re not alone, there’s no shame in asking for help, and resources are available.
Being there for your loved one
You can continue to provide support for your loved one by following through on your offers. For example, you can drive them to and from in-person appointments, help them sign up for online visits, and remind them to take their medication. You can also:
- Invite your loved one to join family or social engagements. Try not to push it if they resist — instead, ask them to take part in another activity such as going on a walk or speaking on the phone.
- Help educate others who are close to your loved one about common mental health challenges and ask them to treat the person with respect and compassion.
- Be patient as your loved one pursues treatment and work toward feeling better.
- Express your hope and optimism that things will improve.
- Take care of yourself — helping others can feel stressful and draining.
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