The first thing to do is just be there

Often we see a loved one is struggling before they’ve been able to see it for themselves.  What do we do in this scenario?  Unfortunately, our options can be limited. However, showing support by listening is something we can do.

Let someone know you’re there for them when they are going through a trying time. This is one of the most significant actions we can offer.  Many times life stressors or medical conditions can leave a person feeling alone and isolated.  When left unaddressed, depression and anxiety usually follow quickly behind.  Being present for someone and allowing them the space to vent or share their story is helpful.  It shows them that they’re not alone on this journey.  You’re someone in their corner, and you’re willing to listen.

Too often we listen in order to respond- missing the message or feelings being delivered.  By showing support through listening, you’re allowing someone to feel heard. 

It reaffirms that their struggle is important to you.  By giving someone the space to share their feelings, even the uncomfortable ones like sadness or grief, you’re allowing them to vent.  Thus lightening the load they’re carrying. While being there for someone, it’s ok that you might not have a solution.  In fact, there are some stressors that do not have a realistic solution.  That person is just simply looking for validation.

By validating someone’s experience and feelings, we’re reinforcing that they are not alone.  Eventhough we havn’t been through the same event, we can empathize and normalize their reactions. 

How many times have you had a friend or loved one share their feelings and immediately follow with asking, “Do you think I’m crazy?”  That brief question is their way of checking in that their reactions are reasonable.

Last, but certainly not least, know your limitations.  There are times when being a listening ear is enough.  For those other times, feel comfortable acknowledging that it might be time to speak with a professional.   The stigma with mental health has decreased throughout the years, but there is still work to do.  You can help reduce the stigma by reassuring your loved one that it’s ok to ask for help.  If you’re met with resistance, that’s ok.

Forcing someone into therapy when they aren’t ready won’t give them the results they need. 

Give them the time to process and identify their needs.  Offer support and remind them that it’s ok to not be ok.  Asking for help is one of the hardest things we can do for ourselves.  We often need the support of our friends and family to take that first brave step.

If you know someone struggling with their mental health, we’re here to help

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Written by: Jennifer Hayes, LCSW