The truth is, most of us have a loved one who has been struggling with mental health related issues.
Another truth is, most of us probably have no idea how to help them, and it causes us to feel completely and utterly useless. Especially when this battle that they fight is usually the hardest battle they’ll ever have to face—and let’s face it, it’s hard not to feel alone.
When you don’t deal with a mental illness, and a loved one does, it’s often difficult to try and understand what they are going through which makes it hard to help, or at least, feel like you can help. The facts, however, are simple: only someone with a mental illness can battle with their illness for themselves, and it cannot be an action handed off to someone else.
However, there are indeed ways where you can support a loved one through this battle of a lifetime. In this post, I’ve listed 8 different ways in which you can support a loved one while they are fighting their own inner demons, and hopefully you will no longer feel so helpless while they struggle.
Coming from someone who struggles with her own mental illnesses, these 8 ways do go a long way to support and love both myself and others like me who deal with this day-to-day.
First and foremost: stay in regular contact! Pick up the phone- call, text, or email to check up on your loved one. This allows your loved one to not feel so alone, which is something that can really take its toll on anyone, not even someone who battle with mental health.
As a matter of fact, earlier in 2018 health insurer Cigna took a nation-wide survey with 20,000 Americans, and the results were astounding. A total of 54% of those Americans claimed that they feel that no one knows them well, and 40% claim that they feel socially isolated from others.
More than half of Americans experience loneliness, which is becoming a terrible epidemic across our country. One way to fight this epidemic is to keep in touch and stay in contact with our loved ones. Mental illnesses only extenuate these factors of loneliness, which makes it so much more important to pick up your phone now and get in touch.
2. Listen Without Judgement
Listen to your loved one! Be patient and understanding. Patience is indeed a virtue, although it can be hard for some people (AKA me) to obtain. Listening and being a sound-board for people who struggle with mental illnesses can help make a major difference in their life and allow them to get thoughts and feelings out that they may not know were even bothering them.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to become their therapist, all I am saying is that you should listen. Therapists listen and then give constructive and logical reasonings to assist with the process of getting better, and that is not something that you need to do. It’s not your job to fix them, or to fix their lives.
It’s your job to listen.
Once you get a good handle on the listening thing (which I’ll be honest, I’m still working on… and it’s not a bad thing to have to work on this skill!) make sure that you are listening without judgment. It’s not your job to judge them and what they are saying, so don’t do it. Listening to your loved one without judgement will allow your loved one to open and create a positive environment for them, which will help them in their battle with mental illness.
3. Support & Encourage
Offer to go with them to find some extra support and advice from professionals. Seeking help is a daunting task, something that takes a lot of effort for someone with mental illnesses to do. The only reason why I am currently seeing a psychologist is because I had to in order to be on the University of North Dakota Women’s Basketball team when I showed symptoms of a mental illness.
It was quite honestly the best decision that was ever made for me.
Although, the fact is it is hard to find a psychologist—especially one that is affordable, one that your loved one can trust, and one that your loved one can develop a good relationship with. Those factors are hard to all get in line, which can be traumatic for someone who is experiencing symptoms of mental illnesses. Simply offering to go with them and provide extra support can go a long way for someone who is starting, or even if someone is currently on a journey to get professional help.
In fact, when I first started seeking help, my athletic trainer would go with me to some of my appointments with my disclosure, and it helped tremendously. I already trusted her, so it was nice to have someone who knew my story and I could rely on for emotional support with me during that difficult process.
In the end, the little things can make the largest differences.
4. Daily Tasks
Much like in the other examples, in this example it rings true that the little things make the biggest difference. Ask your loved one if there is anything you can do to help them with tasks, such as shopping, cleaning, etc. because when someone is dealing with the stresses of battling a mental illness, those types of things can sometimes go under their radar.
One of the ways I know I’m struggling (if I haven’t already noticed it before this) is if my apartment starts to get dirty. When I get caught up in my struggle with mental health, I don’t always focus on other aspects of my life, which can cause some chaos.
Eliminate chaos and help support your loved one by helping them with the little things that they may not be entirely focused on during their difficult days. By doing this, you’ll make their life a lot easier and allow them to get the help they need.
5. Coping Skills
Another way to help your loved one through their struggle with mental illness is to utilize different types of coping skills. Help them to develop coping skills; which in psychology, coping means to invest own conscious effort to solve interpersonal problems in order to try to deal with stress and minimize conflict, and coping skills are skills or techniques that people can use and develop to help cope.
Some examples of different coping skills or strategies to use are:
- Writing in a journal,
- Breathing techniques,
- Reading a book,
- Watching a movie,
And there are many more where that came from.
Coming up with different coping skills that you and your loved one can do together when they find themselves in a negative space can benefit not just your loved one, but you as well. Things like these can develop intrapersonal relationships and make life a lot more fun and interesting which makes coping skills a go-to for making sure your loved one feels supported.
The truth is that living life with a loved one who is struggling with mental illnesses is tough, and sometimes seems like it may seem impossible. There is no worse feeling than watching a loved one deal with mental illnesses, or to watch helplessly as they struggle with their mental health. Hopefully, after looking at these 5 ways you can help your loved one fight their mental battles you feel better prepared to take on the challenge.
When in doubt, focus on the little things and let your loved one know that you do in fact love them and care about them. That will go a long way, believe me. Always keep fighting, and keep in mind that it’s important to take care of yourself as well. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll be in no shape to help your loved one when they need your support.
As always, never, ever give up. Because if you give up—it’ll be okay for them to give up too.