What should I do when someone I love is suffering mentally and emotionally?
When we sense a loved one is suffering in silence it can bring up so many feelings for ourselves
including, anxiety, worry, fear, and helplessness. You want to help but may be unsure of how
you can help. Below are some ideas of how you can help your loved one. Also provided are
helps for you in identifying if your loved one may need professional help. As you figure out how you might be able to help them, remember that your concern and care for their well-being needs to be balanced with caring for yourself.
Helping a loved one with mental health concerns
When you notice a change in someone’s behavior, especially if it seems out of character, it
could be an indicator of a mental health concern or illness. Other signs of mental illness include
the following: overwhelming sadness, helplessness, anxiety, or grief; recent loss of a loved one,
relationship, or job; insomnia or sleeping too much; difficulty carrying out daily tasks; using
substances to mask or cope with stressors or other behaviors that do not seem to fit their belief
and value system. It can be helpful to have an open conversation with your loved one about their mental health to gain insight into how they are doing mentally and emotionally. This conversation can help you determine if seeking professional care would be beneficial. The following are some recommendations for having this open conversation.
Tips for talking about mental health with a loved one or friend
- Choose a time and space in a safe confidential location with minimal distractions.
- Ask open-ended questions like, “Can you tell me more about how you are feeling?”
- Help them feel understood by listening with an open heart and mind and validating their
feelings. All feelings are valid. It is not your job to fix things in their life. You can provide a
- Ask how you might be able to help them and how they can help themselves. Offer
reassurance that you will do what you can and be there for them in the process.
- Be mindful of healthy friendship limits. Consider offering to go with them to see a doctor
and/or help them find a therapist; a referral or look for a therapist in your area through
psychologytoday.com are places to start.
- Practice self-care and encourage them to as well.
- Continue to be their friend.
Offer to help with daily tasks that may feel overwhelming to them Help them get organized and create a plan for wellness. Plan a fun activity to do together Include others who can be a support to them (friends, community, work, church) What do I do if things don’t get better or if a crisis situation arises? Do your best to be a calm support. Consider asking if there are other people whom they would like contacted (close family/friends). Encourage them to seek professional help. Go with them to the hospital if they are in danger of harming themself or another person.
Remember that your role as their loved one and friend is to offer support and help them
find resources to help them through their difficult time. You are not responsible for their
choices and actions. The inclusion of other supportive people and health professionals
will help their growth and healing process and help you to feel a weight lifted. Keep
taking care of yourself as you support your loved one!