An estimated 26% of Americans ages 18 and older—about 1 in 4—suffer from a mental health disorder in any given year. Many people suffer from more than one disorder. For example, depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance use.
When a friend or family member is dealing with a mental health condition, it can be challenging for them and those around them. Supporting a friend or family member is crucial to help them in their journey toward recovery.
Here are some ways you can support your loved one:
Educate Yourself About Their Condition
Learning about your friend or family member's condition, including its symptoms, causes, and treatments is essential. Educating yourself can help you understand what they are going through and how to support them better.
Listen without Judgment
When a loved one opens up to you about their illness, listen without judgment. It can be difficult for them to share such personal information, so it’s essential to create a safe and supportive environment. Avoid giving unsolicited advice. Instead, validate their feelings, and let them know you are there to support them.
Help with Daily Tasks
People with a mental health illness may find it challenging to perform daily activities like cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping. Offer to help them with these tasks to ease their burden. You can also accompany them to appointments or support groups. Small gestures like these can make a significant difference in their life.
Send a Care Package
Put together a care package filled with items that will bring joy and comfort to your loved one.
Plan a Fun Activity
Doing something fun together can provide a distraction from their mental health struggles and create positive memories. Just be sure to consider any limitations their condition may present to make it enjoyable, not stressful.
Like other illnesses, mental health conditions often don’t improve without treatment. But not all treatments work for everyone. Finding the right treatment that works for your loved one may take time. Often, treatment integrates several components, such as talk therapy, lifestyle changes and medication. Encourage them to seek professional help and support them through their journey.
Take Care of Yourself
Supporting a friend or family member with a mental health condition can be emotionally and physically draining. We can quickly put our needs aside while focusing on helping our loved one. But we all need to practice self-care. If you feel overwhelmed or stressed, remember you can talk to a mental health professional too.
Be Patient and Understanding
Mental health conditions can be unpredictable, and recovery is not linear. Your loved one may have good days and bad days, and it is essential to be patient and understanding. Avoid judging them for their struggles and celebrate their small victories.
The most important thing you can do to support a friend or family member with a mental health condition is to show them that you care and are there for them.