How To Support Someone Who Is Mentally Ill


Mental health illnesses come in all shapes and sizes, which sometimes makes it difficult to know how to support the loved ones around you when they are suffering. Below is a list of the most common mental health problems, and generalised advice on how to support someone experiencing them – but, it is important to understand that the best way to support someone is to discuss it with them directly and understand that it is not your responsibility to “fix” them.

1. Anxiety

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety, usually categorised as a panicked fluttering in the chest, however when these feeling permit and have no rational justification, it could be an indicator for something more serious.

If someone around you is having a panic attack, it is important to prioritise the situation at hand and calm the individual down. Though everyone is different, it is common for sufferers to need a quiet, secluded place where they can catch their breath. Breathing is a powerful tool, so by encouraging them to slow down and focus on taking deep breaths their body will start to calm down. Some anxiety sufferers will need to be held tightly, others won’t want to be touched at all – ultimately, talking to them about what they need in that moment is the best way to help them. Sometimes people with anxiety won’t know why they are anxious, or it’s caused by something that feels trivial, so it is important not to invalidate how they are feeling.

2. Depression

Depression hides itself behind fidgeting hands and excessive sleeping, but left untreated it can have life changing effects. If someone you love has been diagnosed with depression, it is important to understand that without professional or medical help it is difficult for them to overcome it, so the first step is to encourage them to seek external help.

Rather than trying to find answers for how they are feeling, it is more beneficial to simply listen and let them know that you care about them. Depressive feelings can make someone feel unloved and inadequate, due to this, constant reassurance is necessary and can even help them reassure themselves when negative thoughts strike.

Recovery isn’t linear, some days they will seem like a functioning member of society whilst other days they won’t be able to get out of bed, either way you can help by reassuring them that they will be okay and encouraging them to eat, drink, bathe and sleep.

3. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD comes in many forms, from an aversion to germs to relying on repetitivity, as such the most important thing you can do for those who suffer is learn about what they are going through. Similarly to other mental health disorders, it is imperative that you encourage them to seek professional help and not assume that you alone “cure” them, mental health is complex and on most occasions it takes a professional to make a difference.

As OCD is reliant on repetitive habits and rituals, it is important for you to not enable such behaviour by also taking part – you may not always be able to stop them from checking locked doors or cleaning, but by refusing to take part you at least won’t be reinforcing the behaviour. Be patient, avoid judgement and stay calm, in order to provide consistency and security for the OCD sufferer. Positive encouragement is one of the best approaches for OCD, so if your loved one starts showing signs of improvement make sure to offer lots of reassurance.

4. Bipolar

Bipolar can be an incredibly challenging condition for those suffering, but it can also be emotionally painful for the people around them. Erratic behaviour can be confusing, frustrating and sometimes even frightening, but it is important to remember that they are still the same person.

Just because an individual has Bipolar Disorder, doesn’t mean that they can’t live a “normal” life, so it is beneficial to encourage them to go out and socialise; it won’t always be doable for them dependant on how they feel that day, but it will make a big difference when they are feeling up to it. A common issue in mental health support is that you can’t “fix” them, but by simply listening without judging them can make a big difference.

Encouragement can be shown in many ways, one of them main ones for Bipolar sufferers is by playing an acting role in the treatment process. By asking the sufferer how they are feeling and keeping track of therapy sessions, they will feel like you are supporting them throughout.

5. Schizophrenia

Watching someone you love experience Schizophrenia is scary, but it is important to reassure them that they as individuals are not scary. A great way to help someone suffering from Schizophrenia is to create a safe environment for them to recover in, offering safety and comfort.

Schizophrenia is a complex mental disorder, that requires relevant, consistent self-help strategies, therapy or medication. As such, one of the most important things you can do is monitor the sufferers recovery process, and if they are avoiding professional aid then try to help them find alternative courses of betterment.

If your loved one experiences an acute psychotic episode due to relapse, categorised by symptoms of social avoidance, hallucinations and disappearances, then they need help urgently. Make sure to have an emergency contact number on hand, limit the amount of light/noise the sufferer experiences and avoid physical contact.

If someone you love is exhibiting extreme symptoms of negative mood, erratic behaviour and low self care, then urge them to find professional care immediately.

If you or someone you love is exhibiting extreme symptoms of negative mood, erratic behaviour and low self care, then find professional care immediately. For more information, please contact a mental health charity like Mind at 0300 123 3393.

Alternatively, if you would like to book a mental health speaker for your event, contact the Champions Speakers agency by filling in our online contact form or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.