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How to Support a Loved One's Mental Health

Monday 11 January 2021
Mental Health

Table of Contents

I. Understanding the Importance of Mental Health

II. Open the Lines of Communication

III. How to Start the Conversation

IV. Provide Encouragement

V. Help With Medications & Appointments

VI. Supporting a Healthy Lifestyle

Understanding the Importance of Mental Health 

Living with a mental health disorder can be a difficult and terrifying time for a person. The successful treatment of a mental illness requires proper medications and social support. Sometimes, it is not obvious when a loved one has a mental health disorder. Everyone goes through difficult periods in their life, but a mental illness involves symptoms that do not go away with time. Symptoms to look out for can include:

  • Withdrawing from friends or activities
  • Excessive anger or hostility
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Confused thinking
  • Feeling sad or down
  • Trouble understanding situations or social interactions
  • Detachment from reality (hallucinations or delusions) [1]


four friends talking to each other

Inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth, or brain chemistry can contribute to the development of mental illness. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that thirteen percent of the global population suffers from a mental disorder. This means that around 971 million people in the world are battling some form of mental health problem at any given time. [2]

These high percentages suggest it is likely that someone you know is suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. Luckily, there are several medications available to assist with symptoms, including Effexor XR (venlafaxine XR), Wellbutrin XL (bupropion XL), Anafranil (clomipramine), Celexa (citalopram), and amitriptyline.

Medication is one facet of treatment, but social support is a huge part of treating mental illness. You may not know how to help someone deal with their mental health problems, but there are many simple ways you can aid in their treatment. Read on to learn more about how to support a loved one.

Open the Lines of Communication

When experiencing a mental health problem, people may want to keep it to themselves. There are many societal stigmas attached to mental illness, so some people may feel ashamed to share their problems with anyone. If you notice unusual symptoms, it is important to create an open and non-judgmental space for conversation.

If you are close with a person with mental health problems, you can sit down and begin a conversation. Those with depression or anxiety may feel vulnerable and nervous to talk, so it may take some time for them to open up to you. Once they feel comfortable communicating with you, providing a conversation space with no distractions is essential. Your loved one may have been keeping feelings hidden for a long time, so give them your full attention.

Having these conversations take a lot of trust and courage, so let them lead the discussion and don't pepper them with too many questions. With time, they will reveal more to you as their comfortability increases. [3]

How to Start the Conversation

Many people may not know where to start if their loved one is experiencing a mental health problem. Depression or anxiety is a touchy subject, so wording your conversation correctly is essential. You can use the following examples to start:

  • "I have been feeling concerned about you lately."
  • "I wanted to check in with you because you seem down lately."
  • "I've noticed some differences in your mood lately and was just wondering how you are doing."

Once your loved one knows that you are concerned about their well-being, you can dig a little deeper if they feel comfortable. You can then ask:

  • "Did something happen that brought on these feelings?"
  • "How can I support you right now?"
  • "Have you thought about getting help?" [4]

two girls talking to each other while sitting on swings

Provide Encouragement 

This may be the first time your loved one has talked about their mental health concerns, so you want to give them encouragement and hope in return. You can offer the following words of encouragement:

  • "You're not alone, and I'm here for you during this time."
  • "You're important to me, and your life matters to me."
  • "It may seem impossible right now, but you won't feel like this forever."

It is essential to conduct these conversations gently. Do not tell this person that they should snap out of it or tell them that everyone goes through tough times. This type of wording can make it appear like you are not taking their feelings seriously. [4]

Help With Medications & Appointments

If you are especially close with your friend or loved one, you may help them with their treatment. If they are nervous about seeking a doctor or psychologist's help, you can help them take the first step. It is essential not to overstep your loved ones' boundaries and make sure they are comfortable with your assistance in their treatment. 

If a person has more severe mental health symptoms, they may need help making doctor appointments and taking their medications on time. You can help them make a schedule and set up their phone to remind them to take drugs, like Effexor XR (venlafaxine XR) or Wellbutrin XL (bupropion XL). The majority of drugs work more efficiently when they are taken at the same times every day. If your loved one is concerned with their drugs' side effects, you can encourage them to write down their symptoms and any other questions or concerns they might have. Your loved one may be nervous to talk to their doctor about these concerns, and you may act as an advocate for them. [5] 

one man showing another man something on his phone

Supporting a Healthy Lifestyle 

Treating mental illness involves more than regulating the chemicals in the brain; the whole body requires attention. A healthy diet and exercise plan can significantly aid in the improvement of depression and anxiety symptoms. You can encourage your loved one to get out of the house and get their body moving. You can act as their exercise buddy and go on weekly walks or participate in an activity they enjoy. This can help them get into an exercise regime that can help stimulate feel-good hormones in the brain.

Every person experiencing a mental health disorder requires specific treatment and responds differently to assistance from friends or loved ones. If your loved one is not well-versed in healthy cooking or eating, you may want to teach them some easy meals to prepare. Many people with mental health disorders may not feel motivated to cook or clean, but participating in these daily activities may help get them back to a productive routine. [5]

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.