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How to Help Someone Struggling with Mental Health

It is challenging to know how to help someone struggling with mental health. This guide provides practical steps and resources to assist someone facing mental health challenges. We will cover how to help a loved one with depression, explore how to find a therapist and discuss talking about mental health. At Freeman Health Partners, we understand how delicate the subject of mental health can be. 

We are available to help you and your loved one find the way to mental health treatment and navigate the early stages of mental health recovery. 

Understanding Mental Health Disorders

Understanding various mental health disorders is an essential first step. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power”. When attempting to help someone struggling with mental health, it is a good idea to learn about different types of mental health conditions, as well as treatment options for each. 

Some common mental health issues include:

  • Depression: A mood disorder causing persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest.
  • Anxiety Disorders: Including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobias.
  • Bipolar Disorder: A disorder associated with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.
  • Schizophrenia: A disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Characterized by unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, and sensations (obsessions) and behaviors that drive them to do something over and over (compulsions).

Supportive group therapy session in a specialized treatment center.

Signs of Someone Struggling with Mental Health

When trying to understand how to help someone struggling with mental health, it is crucial to identify the signs that someone may be facing challenges. These signs often encompass behavioral, emotional, and physical changes. Recognizing the signs of mental health issues makes it easier to help a loved one with depression, find a therapist, or simply talk about mental health more effectively.

Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes can be among the most visible indicators that someone is struggling with their mental health.

  • Isolation: Withdrawing from social interactions is a common sign. Loved ones might suddenly seem less interested in activities they once enjoyed and may choose to stay home rather than engage with friends or family.
  • Altered Performance: A significant drop in performance at work or school might occur. Once manageable tasks become overwhelming.
  • Substance Use: An increase in alcohol or drug use can signal an attempt to self-medicate or escape mental health issues.

Staying attuned to these changes helps initiate supportive conversations about mental health and suggests seeking professional help.

Emotional Changes

Mental health struggles often manifest through a range of emotional changes, which might include:

  • Mood Swings: Rapid and severe changes in mood, such as intense irritability or unexplained elation, can indicate a mental health issue.
  • Pervasive Sadness: A constant or lingering feeling of sadness or hopelessness is a critical sign, especially in those who may be dealing with depression.
  • Increased Anxiety: Excessive worry or fear about everyday situations can be a sign of anxiety disorders.

Being empathetic and providing a non-judgmental ear can be immensely helpful when talking about mental health concerns with a loved one.

Physical Changes

Sometimes, the signs of mental health struggles aren’t just mental or emotional. They can be physical, too.

  • Sleep Disturbances: This might include insomnia or oversleeping, as mental health conditions often disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Weight and Appetite Changes: Significant weight gain or loss without an apparent reason can be an indicator, often accompanied by changes in eating habits.
  • Unexplained Aches and Pains: Persistent physical complaints, such as headaches or stomachaches, may be related to psychological distress.

In noticing these physical signs, it becomes apparent that mental health profoundly affects physical well-being. Ultimately, this reinforces the importance of seeking appropriate help.

Seeing these signs reinforces the need for open and honest dialogue about experiences. Guiding them towards professional support like therapy can be a significant step. Knowing how to find a therapist who matches the individual’s needs is pivotal in their journey to recovery.

Helping a Loved One with Depression

Helping a loved one with depression can be challenging. Fortunately, there are several ways to make a positive impact.

  • Be There: Sometimes, being there for a loved one makes a big difference.
  • Encourage Small Activities: Suggest activities like a walk in the park, which can help uplift mood.
  • Avoid Simplifying Their Feelings: Statements like “cheer up” can feel dismissive. Acknowledge the complexity of feelings.

Family member holding a loved one's hands and engaging in open communication to understand how to help someone struggling with mental health.

Helping a Loved One with Anxiety 

Helping a loved one with anxiety requires a blend of understanding, patience, and proactive support. Anxiety can manifest in various ways, so it’s essential to tailor the approach to individual needs. Here are some practical ways to assist:

  • Recognize the Symptoms: The signs of anxiety include restlessness, excessive worry, irritability, sleep disturbances, or physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches.
  • Create a Safe Environment: Offer a judgment-free space and avoid minimizing their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that anxiety is real and impactful.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Invite a loved one to share their feelings and experiences. Listen actively and validate their experiences without offering unsolicited advice or solutions.
  • Help Them Find Strategies: Suggest relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or gentle yoga. Encourage them to engage in activities they enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Support Professional Help: Offer to help them find a mental health professional or support group. Accompany them to appointments if they need moral support.

Remember, the goal is to support them in managing their anxiety, not to cure it. Your understanding and support can make a significant difference in their journey towards managing anxiety more effectively.

Helping a Loved One with Bipolar Disorder

Supporting a loved one with bipolar disorder can be challenging but profoundly impactful. Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, including emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

  • Educate Yourself: Understanding bipolar disorder is crucial. Learn about its symptoms, triggers, and treatment options to better empathize and support.
  • Recognize the Signs: Be aware of the early signs of mood swings, such as increased energy, irritability, or depressive symptoms. Provide support or suggest seeking professional help if necessary.
  • Encourage Treatment: Consistent treatment is vital in managing bipolar disorder. Encourage them to adhere to their treatment plan, including medication and mental health counseling, and offer to help with organizing appointments or medication schedules.

Steps to Help a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health

  1. Recognize the Signs: Understand the symptoms of various mental health disorders to identify them early.
  2. Start a Conversation: Choose a comfortable setting and time to discuss concerns without judgment.
  3. Listen Actively: Be an empathetic listener. Acknowledge their feelings and show that you care.
  4. Encourage Professional Help: Discuss the importance of seeking help from a mental health professional.
  5. Assist in Finding a Therapist: Help research therapists, make calls, or even accompany them to appointments if they wish.
  6. Support Through Treatment: Be patient and supportive throughout their treatment journey.
  7. Educate Yourself: Learn more about mental health to understand what your loved one is going through.
  8. Take Care of Yourself: Supporting someone with mental health issues can be draining, so ensure you also take care of your mental health.

How to Find a Therapist to Help with Mental Health

Finding a therapist might seem overwhelming, but it is usually straightforward.

  • Research: Use reputable sources to find qualified mental health professionals.
  • Consider Insurance: Check if insurance covers the therapist.
  • Check Credentials: Ensure the therapist is licensed and has experience treating the specific mental health issue.
  • Set Up a Consultation: Many therapists offer a free initial consultation to see if they are a good fit.

Female therapist actively listening to a patient in an individual therapy session, demonstrating how to help someone struggling with mental health.

Talking About Mental Health

Talking openly about mental health is a great way to break the stigma and make someone struggling with mental health feel more comfortable.

  • Be Open and Honest: Encourage honest communication about feelings and struggles.
  • Use Non-Stigmatizing Language: Be mindful of the language when discussing mental health.
  • Respect Privacy: Keep the information shared by your loved one confidential.

Breaking Stigma to Help Those with Mental Health Struggles

Another key aspect of how to help someone struggling with mental health is breaking down the stigma associated with it. Stigma can make talking about mental health challenging, and the goal is to create an environment where these conversations can happen openly and without shame. Here are some ways that work:

  • Education: Being informed about mental health issues is paramount. The more we understand, the more we can help others understand, which chips away at the stigma.
  • Normalization: It helps to talk about mental health as a normal part of life. Make it a point to discuss it as any other health concern, which helps normalize the conversation.
  • Sharing Stories: When appropriate, share experiences or those of others (with permission) to show that discussing and dealing with mental health issues is okay.

Services Provided by Freeman Health Partners

Freeman Health Partners offers a range of mental health services, including:

  • Individual Therapy: Personalized sessions focusing on individual needs.
  • Group Therapy: Supportive group sessions for sharing experiences and coping strategies.
  • Psychiatric Services: Medication management and psychiatric evaluations.
  • Crisis Intervention: Immediate support and intervention in crises.
  • Educational Workshops: Workshops to educate the public about mental health.

Therapist and client engaged in a conversation in the living room, exploring ways to understand and learn how to help someone struggling with mental health.

Contact Us to Help a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health

Helping someone with mental health issues requires patience, understanding, and compassion. By following these steps and utilizing the services offered by Freeman Health Partners, you can provide meaningful support to your loved ones facing mental health challenges. Remember, seeking help is okay, and taking the first step is a sign of strength, not weakness. Contact us today to learn more about how to help someone struggling with mental health.