How to Help a Loved One Suffering From a Mental Illness

You may be someone who feels helpless at the sight of a loved one suffering from a mental illness. It may be especially painful for you and them around the holidays. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can help your loved ones through their difficult times.

Educate Yourself on Mental Illness

Before you can help anyone cope with a mental illness, you must understand what kind of struggle they’re going through. Too often, people mesh all mental illnesses together and, therefore, approach them all the same way. However, someone can experience one or more of a type of mental disability, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bi-Polar Disorder

Each of these mental ailments can yield different, maybe even opposite effects. That’s why it’s important to learn about what mental illnesses your friend or family member is facing and what you can do to help. Some ways to educate yourself include medical blogs such as this, medical studies from reputable sources, or talking to a psychiatrist, therapist, or mental health professional.


When talking to a loved one, make sure you are in an environment where they feel completely comfortable. Don’t immediately bring up the topic; gradually ease into the conversation with questions such as, “How have you been feeling at school or work lately?” Make sure the questions you ask are appropriate without making the person feel judged or abnormal.

Make eye contact, respond regularly, and listen to understand, not to respond. When talking, be calm and relaxed. Express your genuine concern for their situation and feelings.

Things to Avoid

Often times, intention is irrelevant; It’s easy to say something that someone struggling with a mental illness takes offensively or to the extent of, “No one understands how I feel.” Telling someone to simply change their attitude, implies that they aren’t trying to fix their situation and they are purposely feeling the way they are. Don’t tell someone that everyone feels the way they’re feeling sometimes. Feeling temporarily sad due to tragedy or stress isn’t the same as chronic depression.

Take what your loved one says seriously. Avoid joking around about what they’re going through. Don’t judge, criticize, be sarcastic, or condescending in any way. Above all, avoid making someone struggling with mental illness feel as if they are some kind of oddity.

Seek Professionals to Help You Through This

People with mental illnesses aren’t the only ones who may benefit from visiting a licensed therapist. Sometimes, speaking with someone who has a mental disability can leave you feeling frustrated and confused. It’s important to discuss your own feelings towards the situation with a professional.

Not allowing yourself an outlet in which you can express concern and confusion, may lead to you projecting the wrong thoughts and feelings toward the person suffering. A mental health or medical professional can help you work through such feelings, as well as provide insight into the condition and advice on how to interact with your loved one. If you can conquer your own emotions, you will be of better help to someone struggling with theirs.

The Holidays

For those struggling with a mental illness, the holidays may be a time full of anxiety, stress, loneliness, or depression. While this may not entirely make sense, reaching out to express love, support, and a listening ear can make all the difference, and may even save the life of someone considering suicide.

Learn more about how to recognize, manage, and interact with those struggling with a mental illness at our website. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental distress, contact Callahan Clinic located in St. George, UT to speak with one of our compassionate professionals.