Part 4: Three Tips to Support Someone with a Mental Illness
May has been used across the world as Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949. Each year, Mental Health America chooses a theme. The theme for 2022 is Back to Basics which focuses on teaching people the fundamentals of mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that during the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. That is an increase from 1 in 10 adults in the first of half of 2019.
We all go through difficult times, and others help us through them. There are times that you have also likely been worried about other people’s mental health. Whether they are a friend, family member or co-worker, there are many ways to support somebody who may be affected by a mental illness.
How do I know if someone has a mental health problem?
It can be worrying when someone you care about is going through a difficult time. Be sensitive to their needs and seek to understand what is troubling them rather than wait and hope that they will come to you for help, as they may lose time in getting them support.
How can I help? Here are 3 tips for supporting a friend, relative or co-worker who has a mental health problem:
- Ask twice! Often “How are you?” is said as a causal, polite greeting but isn’t really an open invitation to share. If you want to dig down and open a conversation about mental health, follow the greeting up with a second question, “But really, how are you?”
- Let them share as much or as little as they want to
- Don’t try to diagnose or second guess their feelings
- Don’t be afraid to check in. After someone shares about a stressful time, family emergency or mental health condition, follow up to see how they’re doing. A simple reassurance that they were heard can make a difference in knowing your support is ongoing.
- Know your limits. You will have your own limits for the support you can provide and try not to take it personally if they do not want to talk to you. Be open and honest and tell them that you care and offer to assist them in seeking professional support.
By bringing up mental health conditions in day-to-day life or in conversations between coworkers or friends, it can help raise awareness, break stigmas, and help people get the care they need sooner.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. If you have concerns about your mental health, please contact your primary care provider or mental health professional.