10 Ways To Support Someone During Mental Illness

The blog re-launch means new kinds of content. So with this, we start Mental Health Mondays!

That's right...let's talk taboo topics. Because let's face it, Mental Health should not be taboo. Almost everyone suffers from anxiety, depression, or maybe an eating disorder (pick one or all, in my case) at some point in their life. Whether it's driven by a break-up or a death of someone you love or brain chemistry, it's real and therefore, shouldn't be ignored. As the great (don't you dare tell me he's not real) Albus Dumbledore once said, "Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" So, with that, welcome to Mental Health Mondays!

Today, I want to talk about how to help someone who is struggling with a mental health issue. Whether this is a spouse, child, or friend, it can be hard to navigate a relationship with someone with someone in a totally different mind space.  

1. Know your boundaries: Their pain isn't your pain and your pain isn't their pain. If you insist on trying to live in the place they are, you both will be consumed. Having a mental health issue doesn't give someone an all access pass to run your life. Be supportive, but know that you have to take care of yourself as well. You can't always be available and you need to reserve some of that love for yourself. You aren't their therapist. You can't "fix" them.

2. Be a source of light and joy: People who are suffering tend to feel like total burdens. Don't encourage the feeling. It may be hard but keep pressing back with positivity and joy. Share the things you are grateful for and hope for an energy shift. Encourage silliness. Encourage spontaneity. There's a quote that says, "See the light in others and act as if that's all you see." YEAH, do that! They just want to be reminded of the person they were before their mental battle hit them. That person is still there. 

3. Be open to hard conversations: It can be extremely uncomfortable to sit and listen when someone is talking about the darkness they feel, but sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. For one moment, let them talk without judgement. No approval or disapproval. Just acknowledge what they feel and let them know that you still love them. 

4. Don't be afraid to speak your mind: Sometimes, if it gets really dark...you have to take action. Whether it's as severe as talking to them about a mental health program or a metaphorical, "Get in the car loser. We're going to yoga," at some point, you may have to put your foot down and be the catalyst of change. If they can't accept that, then maybe it's time to take a step back.

5. Don't be afraid to lovingly challenge your loved one: The best way I can explain this is maybe a made up conversation.

Friend: I just feel like a loser.

You: Why? 

F: Cause I didn't even get out of bed and go to the party.

Y: So? You'll go to the next one.

F: So, I have to get out and do things or I'm just a loser.

Y: Why?

F: Cause no one wants to be around someone like that.

Y: Why? 

F: Because I'm no fun.

Y: Why?

F: Because I don't do anything.

Y: But you're doing something right now with me.

F: Watching Harry Potter in sweats.

Y: Yeah, I'm having fun. One failure doesn't define whether your likable. In fact, this is kind of a highlight after such a long week. Can you pass the pizza?

F: I guess, you're right. Some people are kind of homebodies. Maybe I'm just getting older or like, this is just how I feel right now.

Y: Exactly, besides Jared's party was kind of lame. Everyone just got white girl wasted and took selfies. No one looked up from their phones.

6. Neglect and abuse is still neglect and abuse: Like I said, no all access pass!!! Just because someone you love is struggling doesn't mean they get to treat you horribly. I would say that this is more prevalent in romantic relationships but no one ever has a valid reason to abuse you physically or emotionally! If that is happening, it's time to take a serious step back. Talk about options and permanently or temporarily remove yourself from the situation.