How to Support a Loved One With a Mental Health Issue


Table of Contents

The CDC reports that 1 in 25 people in the United States suffer from a serious mental illness and more than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental health disorder in their lifetime. 

While these numbers may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that mental health conditions are very treatable.  If someone in your life is experiencing symptoms of a mental illness being there to support can make all the difference.      

Research has shown that support from family and friends plays a huge role in helping someone cope and overcome their mental illness. If you have a loved one struggling with a mental health disorder, we provided advice as to how you can be there to support.  

Mental Health Warning Signs

While it is normal for us all to go through ups and downs, it can be a problem when someone is experiencing extreme emotions and reactions over a sustained period of time. 

So what type of things should we look out for?

For those that we love and spend the most time with, the warning signs might be easier to spot. These might include sudden loss of interest in previous passions and general apathy towards things they enjoyed before or notable changes in behavior. Others include drawing away from social activity, mood changes, and excessive worry or fear. 

Emotions such as sadness and feeling down that last for over 2 weeks should be monitored also as it can be an initial sign of depression according to the National Institute of Mental Health

How to Talk to Someone Dealing With Mental Health Issues

Just the thought of having a conversation with someone about such a sensitive topic is enough to make many stop in their tracks. You may think “What if the conversation goes badly?” 

If you feel this way it is important to take the pressure off yourself. While you may hope for it, you shouldn’t expect a perfect conversation. Keep in mind that very often, something is better than nothing.

While they may not be open to talking to you about it now, letting them know that the door is open is perhaps the most worthwhile thing that you can do. 

How you approach the conversation will be important. Don’t show your negative emotions if they say things that frustrate or anger you. Remember, if they had perfect mental health they likely wouldn’t behave in this way. This can help you not to take things personally. 

Other things to avoid are comparing things that they are going through with things in your life or people that are in a seemingly worse condition. When we bring up our own personal experiences it can come across as invalidating their experience. Much worse, highlighting the difficulties of others can make the person feel guilty for feeling this way, causing them to bottle up their feelings in the future. 

If you are going to take any mental health advice from this section let it be this.


Learn to listen without prejudice and judgment.

They may say things that surprise or even offend us. But as long as you keep in mind your motivation to reach out to them, that should help keep you focused on them and not on you.  

Ways You Can Show Your Support

Dealing with mental health issues is a lonely experience by nature. Therefore we can help our loved ones if we take the time to let them know that we are there and understand what they are going through. So take the time to educate yourself on the person’s specific condition. 

There are countless wonderful resources available even on our blog that can give you an insight into the basics of whatever mental health issues your loved one may be going through. However, if the dialogue has been opened between you both then an even better resource is to ask them about it. 

Conditions such as depression and anxiety affect people in a multitude of different ways. By including them in our education, we are helping to avoid making assumptions. 

Practical help should never be underestimated also.

An acronym commonly used when professionals seek to assist those with mental health issues is H.A.L.T standing for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. When someone is hungry, angry, lonely or tired, they tend to be more easily triggered. Yet as loved ones, by checking in should they not be looking after their nutritional and physical needs, and being present in their lives, we can do much to help them avoid them. 

What About Professional Help? 

It is commonly accepted that the best option is for someone with mental health issues to seek mental health treatment. Regardless of their mental state, it is still their body and therefore they should be respected accordingly. Any efforts to force treatment upon someone are nearly always met with resistance that can eventually push them away. 

What we can do is inform them of their options when the time is right. When they are ready, you may be able to even do the research together. For example, they may be unaware that they can access mental health services via their employer or insurance provider.

This unassuming, non-confrontation tactic is often a big help for someone motivated to seek help, as it can be a challenge to know where to start. 

Look After Yourself

Our last word is for you. Helping someone with their Mental Health Issues can be taxing and emotionally draining and can affect you in ways that you may not even realize. For this reason, it is crucial that you pay attention to self-care. 

Recognize that you can only do so much. At times seeking to help when you are in no capacity to do so can do more harm than good, so don’t feel guilty if, either due to their behavior or what is going on in your life, you can’t take on their load. Not doing so can lead to unbalanced relationships which are unhealthy for all involved. 

Reach Out To Steps For Change

While it can be overwhelming to try and help someone you care about managing their mental health issues, the value of your efforts is priceless. The hope of a better tomorrow is something that we all at times need reminding of, and those who assist others in keeping this in mind are worth their weight in gold. 

We at Steps for Change are dedicated to providing needed assistance to help those in Minneapolis improve their mental well-being. Rather than suffering in silence, reach out to us today to see how our therapist can help you or your loved ones.