There’s no sugarcoating it: watching someone you love struggle with symptoms of mental illness can be one of the most heart-wrenching and confusing experiences you will ever endure. Though you wish you could, you may not know how to help someone grappling with mental turmoil. Every person deals with mental illness uniquely; searching for answers on the internet can leave you more confused than before on how to support your loved one.
Many people living with mental illness have been misdiagnosed or diagnosed unprofessionally, making it hard to recognize and interpret their symptoms. Whether you suspect your loved one has a specific diagnosis or you’re simply concerned for their well-being, trust your gut if you think something’s wrong. While you might have an idea of where to begin supporting your loved one’s mental health, you might benefit from further guidance, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Here are some ways that you can support your loved one or connect with a professional who can provide them with the help they need.
Know the Warning Signs of Mental Health Problems
Everyone deals with bad days and challenging circumstances that make life seem dark and stressful. There is an enormous difference between normal anxiety and a state of depression. You know when your loved ones aren’t themselves. Keep an eye out for behaviors such as:
- Withdrawal from social interaction or a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Trouble functioning at work, school, or social activities
- Dramatic changes in sleep and appetite
- Intense changes in moods or behaviors
- Problems with concentration, memory, or logical thought
- Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, or touch
- Feeling disconnected from the world or a sense of unreality
- Fear or suspicion of others, paranoia, and nervousness
- Erratic, unusual, or unsafe behavior
Although these signs alone do not confirm mental illness in your loved one, any of them is a good reason to follow up with an evaluation from a medical professional to help get to the root of any problems.
Learn to Say “I See You”
Gut-wrenching and uncomfortable though it might be, initiating a heavy conversation with your loved one can play an invaluable role at this point in your relationship. You don’t have to be a psychological expert to let somebody you love know that you’re there for them. Chances are your loved one isn’t looking for you to solve their problems or banish their pain; they just want to be seen and understood. Dealing with mental illness can be intensely lonely. Opening up to someone who loves you can eliminate some of that loneliness.
Express your concern in a non-judgment way, and let them know that you are willing to learn and to be there for them. Don’t let fear guide you; be proactive and ask questions. Reassure them that you are there because you care for them. Use “I” statements, such as “I am worried about you” and “I want to help you,” rather than “you” statements like “You are” or “You should.”
Encourage Your Loved One to Open Up
Be patient with your loved ones, and don’t pressure them to talk to you. When they want to talk, listen; don’t invalidate their feelings or perceptions, for they are their own. One of the worst things you can do during these tough conversations is to invalidate how the other person is feeling by using dismissive statements like “You’re crazy,” “That’s not true,” and “It’s not that big of a deal.”
Encourage your loved one to talk with a mental health professional. If you have ever spoken with a therapist and feel comfortable talking about it, share your experience with them. One of the best ways to eliminate the stigmas surrounding mental health issues is to share your stories and normalize things like seeing a therapist. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength.
Be Prepared to Handle Objections in Advance
Before you bring up the possibility of seeking professional help with your loved ones, make sure to invest some time into researching and eliminating potential barriers that could arise. For example, have on hand a list of therapists who are taking on new clients, or look into childcare services if needed. Try to anticipate any objections or obstacles your loved ones might cite as objections to your suggestion for treatment. In the end, you want what’s best for them, and that means knowing when you can’t help them on your own.
It’s difficult to watch as someone you love struggles with mental illness. You may want to jump in and do anything you can to help, only to realize that you simply don’t know what to do. Don’t let yourself be overcome by feelings of helplessness when your loved one needs you. You don’t have to be an expert to take fundamental steps to provide the people you care about with effective help. Educate yourself on mental illness to learn which symptoms your loved one is experiencing and to identify behavioral red flags that signify the need for professional help. If you or someone close to you is battling mental health problems, reach out to Achieve Concierge. Our mission is to provide you with the tools and skills you need to make a tangible difference in the lives of the people you love. Call Achieve Concierge today at (619) 393-5871 to learn more.