mental health

When Someone You Love Has A Mental Illness

When I was a teen and experiencing anxiety and depression I felt like the only one. When I discovered the internet I realized that I wasn’t alone but I still felt so isolated in my own little world. But now? We’re finally learning how to open up as a society and talk about our mental health and I love it.

Mental health issues are so common, probably even more than you know. Around 85% of people have – at one point – suffered from a mental health issue, with anxiety issues being the most common. Add a pandemic on top of it and people are experiencing anxiety for the first time in their lives and even though some places are loosening restrictions, re-entry anxiety is becoming a thing too.

So how do we ask for support or how do we support someone who needs it?

My wife has depression and I have anxiety so we often check in with each other by saying “How’s your brain doing today?”

Here are a few other suggestions that will help you help or be helped!

Show them that you’re there for them

We need a strong support system. It can be so hard for us to open up and bout our mental health and I know on the opposite end, it can be hard to know the right thing to say. If you want to support and help a loved one or family member who is struggling with mental health, it’s important that you show them that you’re there for them and often that’s as simple as checking in.

“I noticed you’ve been a little distant lately, are you struggling with your depression?”

“I know going out can make you anxious but I’d like to invite you to lunch, or we can have take out at your place if you want?”

“I’m out running errands and I know you’ve been depressed lately, is there anything I can drop off for you?”

Saying “I’m here if you want to talk.” Is a great first step but it’s also important to follow up because it can be so hard for us to broach the subject ourselves.

It’s also important to ask for support. “I’m feeling really anxious today, would you mind doing xyz?”

This type of communication is such a small thing but so life-changing.

Do your research 

It’s also important to understand their mental health struggles, A little research goes a long way, even though everyone is different. It’s not just about reading up on the condition itself, it’s also trying to better understand their symptoms. Resources that offer educational depression and anxiety quotes for your comfort, for instance, can be a useful tool for helping you to gauge a better understanding of what anxiety is and what it’s like to live with.

But the most important act is going right to the source. “What does it look like when you’re anxious or depressed?”

And on the opposite end – explain that when you’re being distant, it’s not personal. Or when you don’t want to be touched, it’s sensory overload and not because you’re mad at them.

Ask them to explain how they feel

“What does it look like for you when your anxiety/depression/etc is really bad? What do you most need in moments like that?” 

If you want to gain a better insight into how someone with anxiety is feeling, one of the best steps that you can take is to ask them. It’s not easy understanding what it feels like to live with a mental health condition but asking someone to explain it to you can help.

I know that I have always felt so grateful, just when someone makes the effort to understand.

The biggest challenge for me (as someone who wants support) is being open and vulnerable about how I’m feeling. I get frustrated when I’m anxious over little things and sometimes I just don’t want to talk about it.

On the opposite end – the biggest challenge when I’m trying to support my wife is to not take it personally. When she’s depressed she usually wants to withdraw and I have to remind myself that it’s not about me.

The biggest thing you can do is provide a safe space for sharing.

Sometimes all I need is someone to listen to how I’m feeling so I can get it off my chest.

That’s really the biggest gift you can give the people around you.

The biggest thing you can do is provide a safe space for sharing.

*And of course none of this is really helpful for crisis situations. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 if someone you love is in danger.