5 Ways To Help Someone You Love Struggling With Their Mental Health
Crazy. Psycho. Disturbed. Have you ever used these words to describe people? These (among many others) are the words that have power to energize the stigma behind mental health. These are the words that people truly struggling with their mental health fear being labeled as. I cannot count how many times I have had conversations with clients about their shame of coming in to therapy because of what others will think of them. And yet, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness within a given year. Not enough of these adults are seeking help and are instead struggling in silence.
Here are 5 things you can do to help yourself and those around you struggling with their mental health:
1. Do your research. There are so many helpful websites that provide education on mental health, including statistics, psychological disorders and other helpful resources. My personal favorite is National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I volunteered with this organization through college and if volunteering is something you’re interested in, I would highly suggest looking in to it.
2. Know the warning signs. It’s really important to keep an eye out on people around you that may be considering ending their lives. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a great resource for educating yourself on how to best help someone in need. This includes someone expressing life to be pointless, withdrawing and isolating, over or under sleeping, suddenly giving away their belongings and loss of interest among many others. There are also various factors that can increase vulnerability to suicidal ideation, including serious mental illness, a stressful life change, exposure to suicide, past trauma and previous attempts.
3. Always have resources handy. Helping someone struggling with their mental health does not mean you have to take on your own role as a therapist. Leave that up to the experts. Providing someone with resources depending on the needs of their situation can be very helpful. Here are some resources to keep bookmarked:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat. If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline . Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline – 1‑877‑SAMHSA7 (1‑877‑726‑4727) Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) Trained expert advocates are available 24/7 to provide confidential support to anyone experiencing domestic violence or seeking resources and information. Help is available in Spanish and other languages.
The Trevor Project - Hotline for LGBTQ youth. Trained counselors are here to support 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline now at 866-488-7386
National Sexual Assault Hotline – Call 800-656-HOPE (4673) Connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area that offers access to a range of free services. Crisis chat support is available at Online Hotline. Free help, 24/7.
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline - The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who—through interpreters—provide assistance in over 170 languages. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are confidential.
Emergency Medical Services - 911 If the situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911, available 24 hours a day.
4. Start a conversation. It’s okay to let someone you know that you’re struggling with your mental health and it’s okay to ask someone you know if they are struggling themselves. Stigma is about silencing and shaming, but if we have the courage to speak up and share with others or be there for those in need, we can work to decrease that stigma.
5. See a therapist and encourage others to do the same. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard people that have gone to therapy for the first time share that they think everyone should go to therapy, no matter how big or little they think their problems might be. It's much more accepted in society to go to a doctor's appointment to care for our physical selves and much less accepted to go to a therapist to care for our mental health. It’s important to process and bring awareness to how your life history has shaped who you are today and be given tools to make changes that can benefit your relationship with your self and others.