In the last decade, there has been greater openness to regard mental health as a vital factor contributing to our overall well-being; however, there still exists great stigmatization against seeking help for mental health issues. The first step to getting mental health treatment is recognizing that there is a need for it — when individuals are facing mental health issues, they will often seek help from friends or family first before discussing with a health professional, so the support you offer can be fundamental.
Offering emotional support
When a close friend or family member seeks our support and comfort from you it can be difficult to know what the “right” thing is to say, but there truly is no right or wrong thing to say in situations like this. Just being there and listening can be quite beneficial. Consider the following in your next interaction:
- Active listening. Don’t listen to respond, simply listen and give space for someone to talk about the difficult thoughts and feelings they’re experiencing. By engaging in active listening, you are offering validation to the individual by attentively listening, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said without judgment or advice.
- Provide reassurance. Mental illness is not a rare occurrence in the world. Letting them know that they are not alone and that you are there to help can provide a safe and secure environment.
- Be patient. While you may want to know more about where these thoughts and feelings came from, or want them to get help immediately — it is important to let them set the pace for seeking treatment themselves.
- Maintain a connection. Your friend or family member may be isolating themselves due to what they’re currently experiencing. Involving them in social activities helps keep things as normal as possible while providing an outlet for them to relieve stress and/or anxiety.
Offering practical support
When your close friend or family member is ready to take the next step into actively seeking treatment, whether that be seeing a therapist or psychiatrist, there are several things you can do to help aid in the process. For example:
- Seek out resources that may be helpful. When someone is seeking treatment they may feel overwhelmed or worried about making the right decision. Doing a quick search on the internet of services offered in the area can help maintain control over the situation.
- Go with them to their first appointment. Offering the moral support of just physically being there in the waiting room can alleviate stress and anxiety they may be experiencing. Having a list of written questions — with the most important point first — can also be beneficial when the person goes to speak with the medical health professional.
- Offer to help organize paperwork. Whether that be their notes, appointment reminders, or psychiatric prescriptions, keeping everything organized in a safe place will alleviate the uncertainty of anything being misplaced.
- Ask if there are any other practical tasks they need help with. This could include offering them a ride to their appointments, taking over household tasks, or arranging care for children or animals. Lifting any stressors off their shoulders can provide a sense of security and give them the energy to engage in treatment.
How to advise on what type of treatment
Depending on the severity and specific condition one is experiencing, psychiatric medication may be the first line of treatment. After trying natural remedies (i.e., a regular sleep schedule, healthy and well-rounded diet, or exercise), seeing a general practitioner or mental health therapist, oftentimes many individuals will proceed to seek treatment from psychiatric medication. See our blog post here for detailed information regarding most types of commonly prescribed medications for mental health conditions.
Many individuals may be hesitant at first to use psychiatric medications, however, ample research has proven that, when used appropriately, medications used in the treatment of a mental illness are both safe and effective. Opening a discussion with your friend or family member about medication can lessen any worries they may have over taking medication.