Mental illness: how family and friends can help

Supporting a family member with serious mental illness

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

Mental illnesses are disorders that affect a person’s mood, thoughts or behaviors.

Serious mental illnesses include a variety of diseases including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder.

Although they can be scary, it is important to remember that these disorders are treatable. Individuals diagnosed with these diseases can live full, rewarding lives, especially if they seek treatment as needed.

Being diagnosed with a serious mental illness can be a shock — both for the person diagnosed and for his or her family and friends.

On the other hand, finally obtaining a diagnosis and treatment plan can sometimes help relieve stress in the family and start moving recovery forward.

Family members can be an invaluable resource for individuals dealing with serious mental illnesses. By learning more about the illness, you can support your loved one through diagnosis and beyond.

Encouraging a loved one to seek help

While symptoms of serious mental illnesses vary, the following signs are among the more common:

  • Social withdrawal.
  • Difficulty functioning at school or work.
  • Problems with memory and thinking.
  • Feeling disconnected from reality.
  • Changes in sleeping, eating and hygiene habits.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Extreme mood changes.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

If you’re concerned a friend or family member is exhibiting these signs, try to stay calm. It’s easy to imagine the worst-case scenario, but signs of mental illness often overlap with other problems.

Consider whether there are other circumstances that might be affecting the person’s mood or behavior.

Did the person recently experience a shock, such as the death of a loved one? Have they recently lost a job or started a new school? 

Regardless of your answers to those questions, don’t let your fear of a diagnosis prevent you from encouraging your loved one to seek help. Start by talking to him or her.

Express your concerns without using alarmist language or placing blame. You might say, “I've noticed that you seem more stressed than usual,” or “I've noticed you don’t seem yourself lately.

” Then back up those statements with facts, pointing out changes in hygiene or daily activities, for example.

Encourage your loved one to talk to a trusted health care provider. If he or she is hesitant to see a mental health specialist such as a psychologist, suggest a visit to a general physician. Offer to accompany them to the appointment if they’d . 

If your family member doesn't take you up on your offer, consider alerting his or her physician’s office with your concerns. Though the physician may not be able to share information with you due to privacy laws, it will give the doctor a head’s up to be on the lookout for signs of mental health problems.

If you feel your loved one is in danger of harming himself or herself, or harming someone else, that’s an emergency. Don't hesitate to call 911. If possible, ask for an officer trained in crisis intervention — many communities have officers on staff who are trained to diffuse a mental health crisis in the best possible way.

A flurry of emotions

It’s entirely normal to experience a flurry of emotions when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Guilt, shame, disbelief, fear, anger and grief are all common reactions.

Acceptance can take time, both for the diagnosed individual, for you and for other family members and friends. That acceptance happens at a different pace for everyone.

Be patient with yourself and others.

One of the most important things you can do to support a family member with serious mental illness is to educate yourself. The more you learn about what to expect, the easier it will be to provide the right kind of support and assistance. 

Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of the disease so that you are able to recognize when your family member might be showing signs that his or her illness is not well controlled.

Remember, too, that there’s a lot of information on the Internet. Some of it is accurate. Some is wildly incorrect. Find trusted sources of information, and don’t believe every horror story.

(See “Resources” at the end of this article.)

Balanced support

Medications can be helpful for controlling symptoms of many serious mental illnesses.

But they might take a while to become effective, and medication alone is often not enough to keep these diseases in check.

Encourage your loved one to take advantage of other resources, such as peer support groups and individual and/or group psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy or social-skills training. 

When a loved one is living with serious mental illness, it’s easy to want to take charge. That’s often especially true when the person is your own child or partner. But taking on complete responsibility for him or her isn't healthy for either of you.

Individuals with serious mental illnesses are more ly to thrive when they are allowed to take appropriate responsibility for their own lives. Instead of driving your loved one to every appointment or errand, for instance, help him or her get a bus pass and learn the routes.

Rather than preparing every meal for your loved one, teach him or her how to cook some simple, healthy meals.

Individuals with mental illnesses still have an identity, and they still have a voice. Engage your loved one in open and honest conversations. Ask what they’re feeling, what they’re struggling with and what they’d from you.

Work together to set realistic expectations and plan the steps for meeting those expectations. Recognize and praise your loved one’s strengths and progress.

Research shows that compared to offering positive support, repeatedly prompting or nagging people with serious mental illnesses to make behavior changes actually results in worse outcomes. 

Unfortunately, people living with serious mental illness still experience stigma and misconceptions. While that can be a difficult reality, the fact is that people diagnosed today can expect better outcomes than ever before.

Medications have improved, and new evidence-based psychotherapeutic interventions can have powerful and positive effects. So try to stay positive.

One of the most important things you can do to support a loved one with serious mental illness is to have hope. 

Resources

Thanks to Shirley M. Glynn, PhD, Karen Kangas, EdD, and Susan Pickett, PhD, for contributing to this article.

Source: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/improving-care

Helping someone who has a mental illness: for family and friends

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

Published: 5 March, 2019

Someone who has been diagnosed with a mental health condition needs care and support – just anyone with any other illness.

Family and friends can provide better care if they are informed about the illness, understand the type of treatment and are aware of the expected recovery time.

How to tell if someone has a mental illness

Even if you know someone well, it’s not always easy to notice changes in their behaviour. You’re more ly to notice big or sudden changes, but gradual changes can be easy to miss.

It’s also true that people who are experiencing a mental illness will not always reveal all their thoughts and feelings to their close friends and family. Because of this, family and friends cannot expect to always know when someone has a mental illness and should not feel guilty that they ‘did not know’.

The best approach is to acknowledge that mental illnesses are common and to learn how to recognise the signs and how to offer help. 

Signs to look out for: 

  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Insomnia (can’t sleep) or hypersomnia (too much sleep)
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Anger or irritability

You can read more about the signs and symptoms of specific mental illnesses depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder on our resources page here.

What to do if you are concerned about a family member or close friend

If you’re worried about the mental health of a family member or close friend, try gently explaining why you’re concerned and provide examples of things they have said or done recently that are worrying you.

If you think the person may need professional support, suggest that they consult their GP or another mental health professional, a psychiatrist or psychologist. Some people may be reluctant to seek help. Young Australians are particularly hesitant, with more than 60 percent feeling uncomfortable seeking professional support.

Providing them some information such as a book, fact sheets or helpful pamphlets that they can read privately can also help.

You could assist them in seeking professional help by doing the following: 

  • Helping them finding someone that they feel comfortable talking to
  • Offering to making an appointment for them on their behalf if they say that’s ok
  • Going with them to the appointment on the day if they feel this will help
  • Accompanying them during the assessment interview if they and their care provider agree that this is appropriate. This may be particularly useful if the person’s symptoms are severe (e.g. during psychosis or mania) or if they are having difficulty thinking and communicating clearly.

Young people, especially adolescents, are vulnerable to mental health problems. If you are concerned about a young person in your life, try doing the following:

  • Find a good time to talk when there are no pressures or interruptions
  • Gently tell them about things they have said or done recently that are worrying you
  • After you have expressed your concerns, stop and listen with the goal of understanding their point of view
  • Try to avoid the urge to give advice or problem-solve immediately. Instead, let them talk and reassure them that problems with mental health are common and treatable.
  • Suggest options and ask them what they would to do. They might to talk to their family GP, or another health professional, or simply find a trusted friend or family member that they can confide in. There are also a range of services (e.g. telephone counselling and websites) that are specifically designed for young people, including headspace.

How to behave with someone who is experiencing a mental health condition

It is important to show as much patience, care and encouragement as possible. Someone experiencing a mental health condition is very good at criticising themselves and needs vital support from others, not criticism. Clear and kind communication within the household or family is also important. 

Here are some tips on how to behave around someone who has a mental illness:

  • This person isn’t functioning the way you are, and what works for you may not work for them. Try to respect where they’re at even if you don’t quite understand it just yet.
  • Avoid suggesting that the problem can be solved with more effort or simple changes. This can feel isolating and shaming. People with mental illness need to know they belong, are supported and that there is help.
  • Try and help the treatment process. If medication has been prescribed, help the person remember to take it and to discuss any side effects with their prescribing doctor. The person may also need encouragement and help getting to therapy appointments or therapy exercises.
  • A key goal of psychotherapy is to help the person change how they think and act. This process can impact relationships as the person tries to acknowledge and change past behaviours. While this can be difficult for everyone involved, try not to steer the person away from these issues.

What to do if someone is suicidal

If you are worried that someone close to you is suicidal or unsafe, you can try the following:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask if a person is thinking about suicide. You won’t increase their risk of suicide. While asking can be awkward, not asking can be much worse.
  • If they are in immediate danger or can’t keep themselves safe, call Emergency Services on 000 or take them to the Hospital Emergency Service department
  • If they are not in immediate danger but are still thinking about harming themselves, encourage them to seek help immediately from a mental health professional, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Remove risks – take away dangerous weapons, remove car keys and ensure potentially dangerous medications are kept safe for the time being. If the person tells you how they might be planning to harm them self, remove whatever means they are planning to use.
  • Help the person to develop a clear, written safety plan that tells them which trusted close friends or family members they can call in times of emergency
  • Remember that if someone is feeling their life is not worth living that they are experiencing overwhelming emotional distress

Self-care for carers

Carers are also ly to experience stress and therapy can release difficult thoughts and emotions in carers too.

So, part of caring is for carers to look after themselves to prevent becoming physically run down and to deal with their internal thoughts and emotions. This often means getting support though friends, family, community groups, online forums or even mental health professionals. Make sure that you plan (and do!) pleasant things for yourself that may not involve the person you are caring for.

The following information and support services for carers provide tools and resources designed to help you be the best support you can be:

Source: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/news/news-detail/2019/03/05/helping-someone-who-has-a-mental-illness-for-family-and-friends

For Family & Friends

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

If you have a family member or friend who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness, you are probably wondering what you can do to help. Although new forms of therapy, medications and community services have enabled many individuals to lead full, independent lives, support from family, friends and peers remains an essential element in the recovery process.

There are many ways you can help someone with a mental illness navigate the treatment system and work towards recovery. As in any relationship, emotional and practical support is always needed.

Occasionally, family and friends participate in someone's recovery by offering transportation, financial and housing assistance.

Whatever form it takes, your support, compassion and respect matter.

Knowing when and how to give support can be difficult to figure out, however. Though you may want to protect your family member or friend, remember that learning to manage one's own affairs, pursue goals and become independent are important aspects of an individual's recovery from mental illness.

Medication Issues

Many individuals with mental illness take some type of medication to help control their symptoms. For those with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, this may involve taking antipsychotic medications.

Although antipsychotic treatments have improved over the past 10 years, they still can cause side effects that lead to other problems that can make your friend or family member feel even worse.

As a result, they may stop taking their medication.

Individuals with serious mental illness may not feel comfortable discussing their symptoms, feelings or medication side effects with family members and friends.

However, a key element in recovery is productive, two-way communication between patient and doctor – what Mental Health America calls a Dialogue for Recovery.

A Dialogue for Recovery that is mutual respect with a team of health care professionals can make a big difference in helping your family member or friend recover.

Support Strategies

Here are some tips for supporting someone close to you:

  • Educate yourself about the diagnosis, illness symptoms and side effects from antipsychotic treatments and other medications. Local Mental Health America affiliates, public libraries and the Internet are good resources to learn about mental illnesses and treatment options.
  • Recognize that your family member or friend may be scared and confused after receiving a diagnosis. Though some people are relieved to receive a diagnosis and actively seek treatment, it may feel devastating to others and bring on stressful feelings.
  • Listen carefully to your family member or friend and express your understanding back to him or her. Recognize the feelings he or she is experiencing and don't discount them, even if you believe them to be symptoms of the illness.
  • Encourage your family member or friend to become an active member with his or her treatment team to gain knowledge about what treatments and services will help with recovery.
  • Recognize that it may take time for your family member or friend to find the proper medications and dosages that work.
  • Understand that recovery from mental illness isn't simply a matter of “just staying on one's medications.” Self-esteem, social support and a feeling of contributing to society are also essential elements in the recovery process.
  • Encourage your family member or friend to speak immediately to his or her healthcare provider about any problems related to medications. Your support in encouraging an ongoing Dialogue for Recovery can benefit your loved one's recovery.
  • Obtain the Antipsychotic Side Effects Checklist (ASC) and help your family member or friend fill it out. Only do so, however, if they have indicated that your help is desired. Encourage them to bring it to the next doctor's appointment. A copy of the checklist is available on Mental Health America's web site, on the Dialogue for Recovery fact sheet.
  • Offer to accompany your family member or friend to medical and other appointments and, if he or she wants you to, discuss medication and side effects with the doctor and the treatment team of social workers, counselors, nurses or other professionals.
  • Always respect the individual's need for and right to privacy. A person with a mental illness has the same right to be treated with dignity and respect as any other person.

For more information or to obtain additional Dialogue for Recovery materials, please contact your local Mental Health America affiliate. You can also find useful tips on our website by accessing the “Mental Illness and the Family” series here.

Source: https://www.mhanational.org/family-friends

Mental Health

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

It can be scary when someone you love is sick. It can be especially scary if they’re diagnosed with a mental illness. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and it’s confusing when someone you know well is not acting themselves.

You know how you would take care of them if they had a cold or flu, but what do you do for a mental illness? any other health problem, someone with a mental illness needs extra love and support.

You may not be able to see the illness, but it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless to help.

How can I help?

Research confirms that support from family and friends is a key part of helping someone who is going through a mental illness. This support provides a network of practical and emotional help.

These networks can be made up of parents, children, siblings, spouses or partners, extended families, close friends and others who care about us neighbours, coworkers, coaches and teachers.

Some people have larger networks than others, but most of us have at least a few people who are there for us when we need them.

There are a number of major ways that family and friends can help in someone’s journey of recovery from a mental illness:

Knowing when something is wrong—or right: Getting help early is an important part of treating mental illness. Family and friends are often the first ones to notice that something is wrong.

See “How do I know when to help?” on the next page for signs to watch for.

Finding a treatment that works is often a process of trial and error, so family members may also be the first to see signs of improvement.

How do I do this?

  • TIP: Learn more about the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses. Also learn more about how treatments work so that you know what side effects you may see, when to look for improvements and which ones to look for first. A recent review found that when the family is educated about the illness, the rates of relapse in their loved ones were reduced by half in the first year.

Seeking help: Families and friends can be important advocates to help loved ones get through those hard, early stages of having a mental illness. They can help their loved one find out what treatment is best for them.

They can also be key in letting professionals know what’s going on, filling in parts of the picture that the person who’s ill may not be well enough to describe on their own.

Where do I go from here?

If you need advice on how to get your loved one the help they need, there are a number of resources available to you.

Other helpful resources are:

BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information
Visit www.heretohelp.bc.ca for info sheets and personal stories on supporting loved ones. You’ll also find more information, tips and self-tests to help you understand many different mental health problems.

Alzheimer Society of BC
Visit www.alzheimerbc.org or call 1-800-936-6033 (toll-free in BC) for information and community resources for individuals and families with dementia.

AnxietyBC
Visit www.anxietybc.com or call 604-525-7566 for information, tools, and community resources on anxiety.

British Columbia Schizophrenia Society

Source: https://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/infosheet/supporting-a-friend-or-family-member-with-a-mental-illness

How to support someone with a mental health problem

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

We all go through tough times and people help us through them. Other times we have been worried about other people’s mental health. Whether they are a friend, family member or colleague, there are many ways to support somebody you care about.

1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in the past week.

What is mental health and wellbeing?

What are mental health problems?

How do I know if someone has a mental health problem?

Sometimes it will seem obvious when someone is going through a hard time, but there is no simple way of knowing if they have a mental health problem. Sometimes you don’t need to know. It’s more important to respond sensitively to someone who seems troubled than to find out whether or not they have a diagnosis.

Although certain symptoms are common with specific mental health problems, no two people behave in exactly the same way when they are unwell. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behaviour or mood.

Below are some signs of common mental health problems. Our A-Z of mental health provides information on a range of mental health problems not covered here.

People who are depressed may:

  • have low confidence 
  • lose interest in activities they normal enjoy
  • lose their appetite
  • get tired easily
  • be tearful, nervous or irritable.

At worst they may feel suicidal.

People experiencing anxiety may:

  • have difficulty concentrating
  • be irritable
  • try to avoid certain situations
  • appear pale and tense
  • be easily startled by everyday sounds.

Panic attacks are usually a sign of anxiety. Someone having a panic attack experiences a sudden and intense sensation of fear. They may breathe rapidly, sweat, feel very hot or cold, feel sick or feel faint.

OCD is a common form of anxiety involving distressing repetitive thoughts. Compulsions are the actions which people feel they must repeat to feel less anxious or stop their obsessive thoughts.

Some people who are distressed deliberately harm their bodies, usually secretly, using self-harm as a way of dealing with intense emotional pain. They may cut, burn, scald or scratch themselves, injure themselves, pull their hair or swallow poisonous substances.

Some people experience a severe mental health problem, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. They may have periods when they experience their own or a different reality. They may hear voices, see things no-one else sees, hold unusual beliefs, feel exceptionally self-important or read particular meanings into everyday events.

Talking about mental health

If you are worried about someone it can be difficult to know what to do. When you are aware there is an issue, it is important not to wait. Waiting and hoping they will come to you for help might lose valuable time in getting them support.

Talking to someone is often the first step to take when you know they are going through a hard time. This way you can find out what is troubling them and what you can do to help.

It is important to provide an open and non-judgemental space with no distractions.

2. Let them share as much or as little as they want to

Let them lead the discussion at their own pace. Don’t put pressure on them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about. Talking can take a lot of trust and courage. You might be the first person they have been able to talk to about this.

3. Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings

You probably aren’t a medical expert and, while you may be happy to talk and offer support, you aren’t a trained counsellor. Try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly with your own diagnosis or solutions.

4. Keep questions open ended

Say “Why don’t you tell me how you are feeling?” rather than “I can see you are feeling very low”. Try to keep your language neutral. Give the person time to answer and try not to grill them with too many questions.

5. Talk about wellbeing

Exercise, having a healthy diet and taking a break can help protect mental health and sustain wellbeing. Talk about ways of de-stressing and ask if they find anything helpful.

6. Listen carefully to what they tell you

Repeat what they have said back to them to ensure you have understood it. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but by showing you understand how they feel, you are letting them know you respect their feelings.

7. Offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information on ways to do this

You might want to offer to go the GP with them, or help them talk to a friend or family member. Try not to take control and allow them to make decisions.

8. Know your limits

Ask for help or signpost if the problem is serious. If you believe they are in immediate danger or they have injuries that need medical attention, you need to take action to make sure they are safe. More details on dealing in a crisis can be found below.

If it is a family member or close friend you are concerned about, they might not want to talk to you.

Try not to take this personally: talking to someone you love can be difficult as they might be worried they are hurting you. It is important to keep being open and honest and telling them that you care.

It may also be helpful to give them information of organisations or people they can reach out to. A list can be found below.

How do I respond in a crisis?

People with mental health problems sometimes experience a crisis, such as breaking down in tears, having a panic attack, feeling suicidal, or experiencing their own or a different reality. 

You may feel a sense of crisis too, but it’s important to stay calm yourself.

There are some general strategies that you can use to help:

  • Listen without making judgements and concentrate on their needs in that moment.
  • Ask them what would help them.
  • Reassure and signpost to practical information or resources.
  • Avoid confrontation.
  • Ask if there is someone they would you to contact.
  • Encourage them to seek appropriate professional help.
  • If they have hurt themselves, make sure they get the first aid they need.

Seeing, hearing or believing things that no-one else does can be the symptom of a mental health problem. It can be frightening and upsetting. Gently remind the person who you are and why you are there. Don’t reinforce or dismiss their experiences, but acknowledge how the symptoms are making them feel.

How do I respond if someone is suicidal?

If someone tells you they are feeling suicidal or can’t go on, or if you suspect they are thinking of taking their own life, it is very important to encourage them to get help.

You or they should contact a GP or NHS 111. They can also contact the Samaritans straight away by calling 116 123 (UK) for free at any time.

They could also get help from their friends, family, or mental health services.

You can ask how they are feeling and let them know that you are available to listen. Talking can be a great help to someone who is feeling suicidal, but it may be distressing for you. It is important for you to talk to someone about your own feelings and the Samaritans can help you as well.

Useful organisations and resources

The first person to approach is your family doctor. He or she should be able to give advice about treatment, and may refer you to another local professional. See our guide on How to talk to your GP about your mental health.

Specialist mental health services

There are a number of specialist services that provide various treatments, including counselling and other talking treatments.

Often these different services are coordinated by a community mental health team (CMHT), which is usually based either at a hospital or a local community mental health centre.

Some teams provide 24-hour services so that you can contact them in a crisis. You should be able to contact your local CMHT through your local social services or social work team.

Samaritans

The Samaritans offer emotional support 24 hours a day, in full confidence. Call 116 123 or email [email protected].

Mind Infoline

Mind provides information on a range of mental health topics to support people in their own area from 9.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0300 123 3393 or email [email protected].

Rethink Advice and Information Service

Rethink provide specific solution-based guidance: 0300 5000927 Fax: 020 7820 1149 E-mail: [email protected].

Anxiety

Anxiety UK runs a helpline staffed by volunteers with personal experience of anxiety from 9:30-5:30, Monday to Friday. Call 08444 775 774.

Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice provides free, independent and confidential advice for a range of problems as well as providing information on your rights and responsibilities.

Step Change

StepChange provides help and information for people dealing with a range of debt problems. Freephone (including from mobiles) 0800 138 1111 or visit the website on www.stepchange.org.

MindEd

MindEd is a free educational resource on children and young people’s mental health for all adults.

Source: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/supporting-someone-mental-health-problem

For Friends and Family Members

Mental illness: how family and friends can help

Anyone can experience mental health problems. Friends and family can make all the difference in a person's recovery process.

Supporting a Friend or Family Member with Mental Health Problems

You can help your friend or family member by recognizing the signs of mental health problems and connecting them to professional help.

Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental health issues can lead to:

  • Improved recognition of early signs of mental health problems
  • Earlier treatment
  • Greater understanding and compassion

If a friend or family member is showing signs of a mental health problem or reaching out to you for help, offer support by:

  • Finding out if the person is getting the care that he or she needs and wants—if not, connect him or her to help
  • Expressing your concern and support
  • Reminding your friend or family member that help is available and that mental health problems can be treated
  • Asking questions, listening to ideas, and being responsive when the topic of mental health problems come up
  • Reassuring your friend or family member that you care about him or her
  • Offering to help your friend or family member with everyday tasks
  • Including your friend or family member in your plans—continue to invite him or her without being overbearing, even if your friend or family member resists your invitations
  • Educating other people so they understand the facts about mental health problems and do not discriminate
  • Treating people with mental health problems with respect, compassion, and empathy

How to Talk About Mental Health

Do you need help starting a conversation about mental health? Try leading with these questions and make sure to actively listen to your friend or family member's response.

  • I've been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
  • What can I do to help you to talk about issues with your parents or someone else who is responsible and cares about you?
  • What else can I help you with?
  • I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
  • Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
  • Sometimes talking to someone who has dealt with a similar experience helps. Do you know of others who have experienced these types of problems who you can talk with?
  • It seems you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you to find help?
  • How can I help you find more information about mental health problems?
  • I'm concerned about your safety. Have you thought about harming yourself or others?

When talking about mental health problems:

  • Know how to connect people to help
  • Communicate in a straightforward manner
  • Speak at a level appropriate to a person's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details as compared to teenagers)
  • Discuss the topic when and where the person feels safe and comfortable
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if the person becomes confused or looks upset

Sometimes it is helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital.

Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people.

However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem.

And just people need to take medicine and get professional help for physical conditions, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine and/or participate in therapy in order to get better.

Get Help for Your Friend or Family Member

Seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you think your friend or family member is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.

Source: http://www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/friends-family-members

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