If your loved one, a close friend, or a romantic partner struggles with a mental health issue, chances are your relationship might be incredibly stressful, draining, and simply difficult at times. Even if you have their best interest at heart, it can often feel like navigating uncharted waters. Fortunately, with the proper knowledge and skills, such as open communication and boundary-setting, you can learn how to support someone with a mental health problem. In this blog post, we take a closer look at common challenges that come with mental health issues, as well as share useful tips on how to offer your help to your loved one and take care of yourself on this journey.
What Are The Challenges?
Struggling with mental health issues presents several unique challenges, which further negatively influence other categories of life, including relationships with other people:
- Let’s say your partner, has depression, tends to spend time alone, avoids socializing with your friends, or struggles with going out on dates with you. Understandably, their actions might hurt your feelings.
- Perhaps your parent has anxiety and often overshares their fears and worries with you. The fact that they don’t respect your boundaries and stress you out can be frustrating.
- Maybe your close friend has bipolar disorder, and in the period of depression, they don’t feel like talking to anyone. It can feel confusing or inconsiderate if they stop responding to your calls and messages.
All of these examples demonstrate how the mental health issues of your loved one can evoke a range of intense, often uncomfortable emotions in you. However, there are tools and skills you can learn to navigate your relationship better and support them on their journey toward greater well-being.
5 Ways to Support Someone With Mental Health Problem
1. Educate Yourself
Start by learning all you can about the mental health issue of your loved one. That knowledge will help you not take things personally and understand them better. Remember that mental health issues aren’t something you can “fix” or “snap out of”. For example, depressed people are not lazy or inconsiderate – this disorder leaves them exhausted and thinking they cannot change. It’s crucial to accept that you can’t rescue your loved one. The path to recovery is entirely in their hands. You can start supporting them by educating yourself on their diagnosis, symptoms and daily struggles.
2. Communicate Openly
Pretending there’s no issue and sweeping it under the carpet won’t make the mental health problem magically disappear. It’s essential to show your loved one that you’re not afraid to address their struggle and openly talk about it. Rather than criticizing their behavior, you can focus on your own feelings and observations. Here are some suggestions on how to start this conversation:
- “I’ve been feeling worried about you… Can we talk about it?”
- “I observed that you’ve been avoiding me and not responding to my messages. I wanted to address that.”
Throughout the discussion, try your best to be honest and listen actively without interrupting.
3. Offer Help With Compassion
If your loved one struggles with mental health issues, they probably engage in negative or even abusive self-talk. Make sure that you treat them with unconditional love, acceptance, and compassion. Whenever possible, offer a safe space within which they can freely talk about their experience without being judged. Additionally, try your best to be a source of reliability and support in their life. That means:
- staying in touch and checking in with a simple message, i.e. “Have a great day!” or “Thinking about you today”
- offering your help with managing daily responsibilities, i.e. driving them to their therapy sessions, taking care of their kids
4. Set Healthy Boundaries
Another crucial tip is knowing when to step in vs when to distance yourself. Like in any successful relationship, it’s essential to mutually respect the needs of both parties. It might mean giving your friend/partner/family member some space. However, not being overprotective can be tricky. If you see your close friend slip into a depressive episode, leaving them alone might feel wrong. So share your feelings and find a solution with your loved one. Ask them openly: “How are you feeling? Is there anything you need from me?”. Maybe you need to set healthy boundaries with one another to achieve clarity and avoid conflict. Perhaps picking days when you see each other or choosing categories of life you can or cannot help with can solve this issue.
5. Practice Self-Care for a Mental Health Problem
Since the mental health issues of your loved one can get intense and overwhelming, it’s easy to put them above your own well-being. However, that’s a one-way street to straining yourself, reaching burnout, and feeling resentful toward the other person. It’s crucial for you to recognize when you need to take a break and create a self-care routine that can support your health best as well. Take time to engage in relaxing activities and do things you genuinely enjoy. Another person’s mental health issues will unavoidably affect you – there’s no question about it. Keep in mind that your feelings, thoughts, and struggles are also valid and deserve your care and attention. Discussing them in psychotherapy might be a good idea. Click here to contact us and get professional help with Harbor Psychiatry today.