3 Ways to Support a Friend With Mental Health Issues

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adobestock_103311323Our mental health plays just as much of a role in our wellbeing as our physical health, but it can be more difficult to care for someone with mental health issues.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in any given year. Here are three ways to support a loved one if mental illness hits close to home.

1. Encourage Them to Seek Help

Sudden changes in mood, thought or behavior can be alarming for both the person experiencing them as well as friends and family. If someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of a mental illness, it’s important that you stay calm while encouraging them to seek help. You may suggest contacting their family doctor if they’re hesitant to seek psychological help. The following signs may be indicators of a mental health issue:

  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty functioning at school or work
  • Problems with memory and concentration
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide

While it’s important to respect an individual’s independence, if you are concerned that someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else and they’re not willing to get help, you can call 911 and ask for a mental health officer. These are police who are trained to help people in a mental health crisis and can assess the situation and assist someone in getting the help they need.

2. Educate Yourself

When a friend is diagnosed with a mental health issue, read up on what to expect. Learn about possible symptoms so you’ll know what to look out for and what types of support is best.

With 20 percent of Americans suffering from a mental health issue, chances are that someone you know may be affected.

3. Offer Positive Support

People living with serious mental illness may require a combination of medication, therapy and support groups to manage their condition. You can offer support by having honest conversations with them about how they’re feeling and encouraging their positive gains. They may have a long road ahead of them, but it’s important to respect their independence and let them take the steps they need according to the pace that’s right for them.