Helping A Loved One With A Mental Health Challenge

It’s hard seeing someone struggle, but giving advice isn’t the best way to help. Here’s how to be there for someone who’s going through it.
mental health

Helping A Loved One With A Mental Health Challenge

When a friend, family member or another loved one is struggling with their mental health, it’s common to immediately want to jump in and “fix” things. Whether it’s helping someone with anxiety, depression or another hurdle, it’s tough seeing your people in pain—but rushing to offer solutions isn’t usually the best way to help. 

Instead, here’s what you can do to be there for someone who’s going through it. 

Helping someone with a mental health challenge

1. First, know your “role”

The first step to helping someone with a mental health challenge is to get clear on your role. Your job is NOT to solve their problems or restore them to perfect wellness. That’s best left to professionals.

Instead, your role IS to provide love, support, and a safe space for them to share what they're going through. This may sound passive, but it's actually one of the most active things you can do.

When someone is dealing with a mental health challenge, they’re not really looking for solutions from you. If they knew of a solution that worked, they would’ve tried it already, right? 

Knowing your role here will help you create the kind of safe space the other person needs to share things more freely with you. The worst thing you can do is position yourself as an unsafe resource for them—if that happens, they won’t open up to you at all, and you won’t know how or what they’re really dealing with. 

Remember: your job isn't to solve it; it's just to love them.

2. Stay communicative and non-judgmental

When helping someone with depression, anxiety or another challenge, always remember to keep the lines of communication open. Check in regularly, whether that's a quick text, a phone call, or an in-person meetup. Let them know you're available to listen without pressure or expectation. Remind them that your door is always open, and that you're there for whatever they need—even if that's just someone to sit quietly with.

What they need right now is consistency; someone who will stay in touch and stay judgment-free.

3. Keep your own mental health in check

Yes, it’s important to help others. But how are YOU doing throughout this process?

Try not to lose sight of your own mental health during the support process. Supporting a loved one through a mental health challenge can be draining, both physically and emotionally, and it can lead you toward your own challenges if you don’t prioritize your wellbeing, too. 

Make sure you're taking time for self-care, whether that's going for a walk, journaling, or simply giving yourself permission to relax for a while. After all, you can't pour from an empty cup. 

4. Meet them where they’re at

When connecting with someone who’s dealing with a mental health challenge, it’s important to meet them at the level they’re at, not where you want them to be.

If they’re not ready to move forward yet and take all the steps necessary to get better right now, that’s okay. Remember: we’re not jumping ahead to solutions quite yet. Asking them a question like “what do you need to do to get better?” may seem helpful, but if they’re not in the right headspace, it can put undue pressure on them.

Rather than pushing them to move on, join them where they are right now. 

5. Remind them who they truly are 

One powerful way to support someone you love is to remind them of how you see them! Share your positive view of them with them. Be specific about the qualities, achievements, and strengths that you see and admire. This can help counteract the negative self-talk and feelings of worthlessness that can accompany mental health challenges.

For example, you might say something like: "I want you to know that I think you’re incredibly strong and resilient. I'll never forget how you got through that tough breakup, or how you stepped up to help your sister when she needed it. Those are the kinds of things that make you such an amazing person."

Hearing an outside perspective that affirms their worth can be a powerful way to combat the self-doubt and hopelessness that often go hand-in-hand with mental health challenges.

Of course, there may be times when you feel out of your depth or concerned that your loved one may be in crisis. In those cases, don't hesitate to encourage them to seek professional help, whether that's from a therapist, counselor, coach or their doctor. You can offer to help them find resources or even accompany them to appointments. Just don't take on the responsibility of "fixing" them yourself.

Coaching a loved one through a mental health challenge

Ultimately, supporting a loved one through a mental health challenge is about being a steady, compassionate presence. It's about creating a safe space for them to express their feelings, without judgment or the pressure to immediately "get better." It's about reminding them of their inherent worth, even when they can't see it themselves.

It's not easy, and there may be setbacks and frustrations along the way. But by focusing on what you can control—your own actions and attitude—you can make a profound difference in their life. 

In short, you’re playing the role of “coach,” where you’re guiding them through their own journey at their own pace. And if you want help with being a better coach, we’re here for you. It’s what we do—and what we love.

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