How do I help a friend, family member, someone I know, who I believe may have a mental health problem?
Last Updated: 12/08/2020 at 3:10pm
Cynthia Stocker, LCSW
Clinical Social Work/Therapist
My approach is direct, kind, honest & collaborative. My clients appreciate that I help them in a way that cuts through the jargon and gives clear explanations.
Top Rated Answers
First, remember, you are not responsible for that persons recovery. It’s not easy dealing with a friend or family member’s ilness. And if you don’t take care of yourself, it can wear you down. Be sure to emotinaly shield yourself. That said, being a compassionate listener is much more important than giving advice. You are not a therapist, and despite your best intentions, you are not qualified to be giving meaningful advice, this might even be dangerous. You don’t have to try to “fix” the person; you just have to be a good listener, encourag them to seek help and give unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. Also, Instead of guessing what helps: ask. Listen. Be patient. Be kind. Good Luck.
First off- it's important to talk to them when they feel comfortable talking, on their own time, not just when it is convenient for you and your schedule. When you are finally are able to approach this delicate subject, do not judge them. Encourage your friend or family member by staying completely engaged in the conversation. (in other words, do not allow yourself to be distracted by your cell phone, or other people, or the general environment that surrounds you) Give your friend/family member your full and undivided attention so that they feel like you are listening and that you care for them.
The best way to help a friend or family member is to always check in with them. Ask them how they are going and if they are ok. Another way you can help someone is to actively listen to them. Show them that you are actively listening by explaining to them what they have told you. I think it’s also a good idea to regularly check in with them. Talk to them about your personal experiences and try to empathise with them. Make sure they know that they are not alone. Be consistent with them to show that you care.
The best thing to do is to get them professional help. Talk to a guidance counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional about what is going on with them so you can make a plan to get them the help they need. If the person suffering from the mental health problem is hesitant on getting help right away, let them know that you have their best interest at heart, but you don’t want to force them into anything. Don’t make them feel trapped, make them feel as comfortable as possible so that they can share how they feel with you.
Be open, but be prepared that they may not be. Mental illness is not easily assumed, but there are definite red flags that you may have noticed that have concerned you for your friend. Don't make a statement about those red flags when you approach the conversation. Always be an ear. Empathize Ask Respond An ear listens instead of talking, and responds instead of rebutting. Start off with an empathy statement that asks them how they are doing. ex. "Hey, are you feeling okay lately? I know this time of year always gets me down." Ask open-ended questions without making assumptions. ex.: "How have your classes been going?" instead of "You have so many classes right now, that's so overwhelming!?" Respond without interrupting. ex.: "I hear you.", "I understand.", "I would feel the same.", "That makes sense." If your friend confides in you, offer your support and guidance. Never assume they want you to reach out to help on their behalf. Just ask. If they aren't ready, be a friend and not an enforcer. Healing happens at an individual pace.
First, ask them if they have time to talk to you, preferably in person and alone. Set up a time where you won't be rushed or interrupted, and ask how they're doing. Ask genuinely, and listen. Tell them you're worried, express that you care about them, and gently tell them that you've noticed that they've been struggling. If they open up, just listen. Don't fill their pauses with comments, just nod, and let them know you're listening. After that, make them aware of resources, such as doctors in your area. Give them crisis lines because even if they don't need them, are good to have on hand. If you're worried they're suicidal ask gently but explicitly "have you been thinking about taking your own life". IT doesn't make them more likely to attempt, contrary to popular belief, and gives them the opportunity to tell you.
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