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If you or a loved one suffers from depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please call 911 for immediate help. You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255, or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.
It’s difficult to watch someone you know suffer. It’s even more challenging to watch someone suffering from mental health illnesses such as Major Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and Schizophrenia. When they do suffer, you want to do everything in your power to relieve them of the pain. However, you might not know what to do.
There are times where you may feel hopeless, frustrated, and sad because you don’t know how you can help them. But, how you act, say, and behave around someone who has a mental illness can positively impact their mental health in the long run. You may not be a professional, an educator, or an expert on mental health illness, but there are steps you can take to educate yourself and to help the ones you love who are suffering from these mental health illnesses.
Make sure to finish reading this article to learn how to support a loved one with depression and anxiety.
What is a Mental Health Illness?
A mental health illness is a disorder that affects your daily mood, attitude, behavior, and thinking. Mental health illnesses are typically associated with distress or problems in someone’s social, work, or personal lives. Mental health illnesses are common, especially in the United States. Over 50 million Americans were diagnosed or suffered from a mental illness in 2019.
Mental health illnesses come in many forms and can have long and short-lasting effects on a person. Some of the most common mental health illnesses are
- Depression — I suffered from it and wrote an open letter about my experience. You can read the letter here.
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
To learn more about mental health illnesses, read this post on what is mental health?
Helping Someone With Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are such common mental health disorders that you’ve probably met or know someone suffering from them. People with depression and anxiety are more likely to overcome their struggles if they have the right support system. But, getting them the support they need is more challenging which is why I am writing this article on how to help someone with a mental health illness.
Both depression and anxiety can leave a person feeling extremely sad and lonely. Sometimes the best thing you can do for them is to call them, hang out with them, and check-in with them occasionally. When a loved one feels down, it helps to know that they have someone on their side who wants the best for them.
By giving your loved ones this support, you open the doors to communicate about how they feel. Once they’ve chosen to talk it through with you, it’s your job to offer consistent encouragement and not make them feel isolated, confused, or uncomfortable. Here are four ways you can provide encouragement and support to a loved one with depression and anxiety.
How to Support a Loved One With Depression and Anxiety
Be Willing to Listen Free From Judgement
One of the biggest reasons why most people refuse to seek help from someone they know is fear of judgment. Listening without judgment means that you’re not quick to jump to conclusions or form opinions based on what is said. By not judging someone with depression and anxiety, they’re more likely to want to confide in you, seek feedback, and go to you in times of need.
Offer Unconditional Love
Offering unconditional love is the best way to help someone with mental health illnesses to boost their self esteem and confidence. It makes a person feel safe and wanted, which results in them finding the strength to be vulnerable. This means that a person is more likely to come to you when they’re upset, angry, or experiencing any negative emotion.
Encourage a Judgement Free Environment
Not only do you need to listen without judgment, but you must create a judgment-free environment. A judgment-free environment allows your loved ones to feel comfortable enough with speaking their truth. Your loved ones can overcome their struggles faster, knowing that the space they are in is safe for them.
Resist The Urge to Offer Advice
The final and most important thing to do when speaking to someone with depression and anxiety is to resist the urge to offer advice. Sometimes a person wants to vent and be heard, and what they don’t want is to be lectured on how to solve their life problems. Let them lash out, even if it’s something small. Trust me; you’ll positively impact them more by saying nothing than giving them advice.
Other Ways to Help Someone with a Mental Illness
If you’re ever unsure about supporting a loved one with depression and anxiety, you can always search for free resources online. Below is a list of free resources for people living in the United States, the UK, and South Africa.
If you’re looking for resources in other countries not listed above, please reference https://unitedgmh.org/mental-health-support, which has an extensive list of resources for people who have a mental illness, including those living in third-world countries.
- The National Suicide Hotline (USA): Call +1 (800)-273-8255
- Mind Info (UK):( Call 0 (300)-123-3393
- Samaritans: Call 116-123
- Crisis Text Line (USA): Text NAMI to 741-741
- Suicide Crisis Helpline (South Africa): Call 0 (800)- 567-567
- 24hr Substance Abuse Helpline (South Africa): Call 0 (800)-121-314
- Mental Health Helplines (South Africa) Call 0 (800)- 456-789 or 0 (800)-212-223