Dealing with a mental illness can be debilitating, but dealing with it alone can seem almost hopeless. Family and friends can offer support for those who struggle with mental issues and help them process their fears and doubts. Building a great circle of friends is a necessary investment that you should make for your health. Having a support system in place is important for all people, especially those who have depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, etc.
If you are looking for more social support or are a friend or family member to someone who struggles with mental health, below are some ways to help provide social and emotional help and why they are vital to mental health coping.
1- Social Support
The biggest benefit of having supportive family and friends is having social support. Social support can look like a safe person to go out with, offering resources when asked, and helping other family members to be supportive as well. Social support makes living in the world much more bearable and brings more understanding around mental health.
With the stigma around mental health dissipating slowly, asking your family members and friends to spread awareness about mental health will help aid in reducing the stigma.
2- Boost Self-Esteem
Everyone needs a boost of confidence or self-esteem every once in a while, and it means more coming from those you love. Family and friends can help lift your spirits when you are feeling low or experiencing self-doubt.
Mental health can be draining, so having someone to help remind you what you’re capable of can help propel you forward. As a friend or family member of someone with a mental illness, you can help show people their strengths and remind them of all the bad days they have survived so far.
3- Learning About Genetic Mental Conditions
Open communication between family members is important when it comes to mental health concerns. Talking about your genetic predisposition to mental illness can make it seem less scary and help you find the right resources for you.
While some medications or therapy may work for certain members of your family, it may not work for you. Learning about what medication or therapy practices work and what has not worked in the past can make your mental health journey much smoother.
4- Better Understanding Of Triggers and Behavior
Having someone who listens to your stressors, works to understand what may upset you, and healthily learn how to help you can be a lifesaver for those with mental illness. Having family and friends that can also advocate for your care and fair treatment will put you in a better position to handle any stress that may come your way.
Having a group of supportive friends also makes it easier to take a step back or a break from social obligations when your mental health is not in a good place. While being socially connected can help improve your long-term health, it may not always feel possible to be around other people. Family and friends who understand that you may need some space, but are there when you need them most, are good ones to keep close.
5- How To Help A Friend With A Mental Illness
Being a supportive friend or family member can mean a lot when someone is struggling with grief, loss, trauma, or abuse. Lending a listening ear (when you are able and mentally healthy) is a great place to start.
If you are close to someone who struggles with mental illness and you want to provide extra support, here are some ways you can help.
Ask How To Help Them
Despite what we may think, we don’t always know best, even if we have good intentions. Ask your friend or family member what you can do to help them. Asking them when they are in a fairly good mental state may be better than asking them in the midst of an episode. Each person will want support at different times and in different ways. Some methods may work for some, while others may just want you to leave them alone.
Some ideas you could suggest if they are not sure what to have you help with may be inviting them on your morning walk or run, offering to help keep track of medications, taking them to doctors appointments, grocery shopping for them, or offering to do some small household chores. Family and friends don’t have to do it all, but taking some tasks off the persons to-do list can be a large weight off their shoulders.
Be Open And Flexible
Being nonjudgemental and sympathetic towards their struggles is important for the family and friends of those with mental illness. Saying, “Just get over it,” or “cheer up,” are not helpful phrases. Those with mental health struggles may cancel plans, fail to respond to messages or feel like they are constantly complaining. While all of these things can be an inconvenience, being a supportive friend or family member may include dealing with these things.
Being flexible about scheduling, telling them it’s ok to say no to plans or offering to do a more low-maintenance activity can still bring connection without too much stimulation.
Have Fun Conversations
Talking about mental health is important, but you don’t have to talk about it all the time. In fact, talking about passions, hobbies, new movies, pets, or funny videos can be a much-needed distraction for someone who is struggling. Most people don’t want to only be defined by their mental illness, so have conversations about other things to take their mind off of what could be causing them stress.
Encourage Therapy When Needed
While you can be a supportive friend or family member, you are not a therapist. If the person you are close to needs extra guidance or help, refer them to a therapist or encourage them to reach out to a hotline for help. Getting professional help is not something to be ashamed of. Ogden Psychological Services is here to help many different people with a variety of mental struggles. Therapy can be scary, but our team is here to answer any questions you may have before you even schedule an appointment.