5 Ways to Support Someone with a Mental Illness

April 21, 2021 Annabelle Clawson

You probably have friends or family members who deal with mental illness. And you probably want to help them. You just might not know how. That is okay. It's normal to be hesitant about how to support someone with a mental illness, especially if you don't experience the same things yourself. You don't want to do anything wrong or say something that will trigger them. Here are a few general ways you can help.

How to Support Someone with a Mental Illness

  1. Check in often. Many people with mental health problems struggle to build the courage to reach out for help. Send them a text, stop by with a treat, or write them a note to ask how they're doing. Be sincere. Let them know that you are there to listen.
  2. Make some choices for them. It is often hard for people with mental illness to make decisions. (What this looks like will obviously depend on your friend's situation, and be careful not to make them uncomfortable.) Some examples include: Instead of asking if they want to go to lunch, pick them up and take them to lunch. Choose a movie to watch if they can't decide.    
  3. Tell them you love them. Someone with mental health problems has a difficult time believing that others care about them. Remind your friend how much you love them, and remind them often. Assure them that they are not defined by their mental illness.
  4. Don't try to fix them. You won't be able to make mental illness go away. What people really need is empathy. They need to know that you're willing to sit there with them, judgment-free, during the panic attack, the binge, or whatever part of their illness is toughest for them. So be there for them. They will feel less alone.
  5. Ask them what you can do to help. It's nice to say, "Call me if you need anything!" But it's even better to say, "What can I do to make your life easier?" Maybe they would like you to buy their groceries, bring them cookies, or go on a run with them. It's different for everyone.

Set Boundaries

Caretaking can be exhausting, so make sure to set boundaries and take care of your own mental health. Maybe this means that you will set aside certain times of the day to refresh yourself. Find the best ways to keep yourself well. 

You won't be perfect at supporting someone with a mental illness, but they will appreciate your efforts. Do the best you can, and don't be hard on yourself.

APA Reference
Clawson, A. (2021, April 21). 5 Ways to Support Someone with a Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Annabelle Clawson

Find Annabelle on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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