How to Support A Loved One When They Struggle With Mental Illness

How to Support A Loved One When They Struggle With Mental Illness

Mental illness can be really difficult to understand when you don’t suffer from it yourself. What makes it difficult is it’s very hard to explain. This is the best way that I can explain it . The other reason is some people just don’t want to understand.

There are two types of people in this world, one who wants to try and support a loved one when they struggle with mental illness.These people try to understand it. The second is people who say that people are just looking for attention and “life can’t be that bad”. I have dealt with both these types of people since I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety last year.

My hope for this post is that I can give you an insight into the mindset that your loved who suffers with mental illness has, so that you can help them effectively.

rain drops on a window
Photo Credit: Mica

Be Encouraging

Sufferers of mental illness need a lot of encouragement.

What do they need encouragement for? Well, first and foremost,  they will need encouragement to go to a doctor and seek help if they haven’t done so already. Encourage them to go so they can work on being able to deal with their illness and to take the edge off with either medication or therapy.

When I was encouraged to go to see the doctor and visit a therapist, I wasn’t happy. I felt like I couldn’t show my weakness or vulnerability. Pretending to be okay is a lot easier to do than talking about my feelings. I felt like people would use it against me.

Your loved one could be going through this thought process, too. Being told that I wasn’t weak and they are here to help me would have made it easier for me to finally go to a therapist and visit my doctor. Reassure the struggling person in your life that no one will use it against them.

If they are already in therapy and on medication encourage them to go back to the doctor and to discuss the next steps that can help them. After a month of being on antidepressants, I felt the exact same as I did before I began taking them. I had to visit my doctor again. We discussed putting my dosage up and that’s what she did.

Taking medication for a mental illness is a lot of trial and error. Encourage your loved one not to give up because the doctor will find the correct medication and dosage for them. It might just take a little longer than expected.

Accept Them

Having a mental illness can make you feel like you are a freak – that you are weird and out of place in your family and group of friends. This will make them feel alone and they will mostly pull away from being around others.

Show them that no matter what they are going through that you will be there for you. Accept them for who they are, not their mental illness.

You will need to accept at times that they may not be able to get out of bed somedays or go out sometimes. Acceptance is key to supporting your loved one when they struggle with mental illness.

sunrise with a flower
Photo Credit: Kayla Graphic Credit: Anne

Listen and Be There

Some days you will just have to sit and listen. There will be days when everything is just too much for your loved one to handle and they need to get it all off their chest before they explode.

Listening will really help them. I always do this with my boyfriend. When I am struggling with my depression and anxiety, or even if I’m just stressed out, I let it all out to my boyfriend.

It helps both of us a lot. It helps me get it all off my chest and it helps Ryan understand what is going on inside my head.

Recognise the Warning Signs

Your loved one may not speak to you about the way they are feeling. They could be feeling really depressed or struggling with suicidal thoughts, so this point is very, very important. Some signs of suicidal thoughts and even depression include:  

  • They can be sad or depressed a lot of the time
  • Being anxious, agitated and unable to sleep
  • Their physical appearance will deteriorate. For example: losing weight, becoming very pale, having bags under their eyes, etc.
  • Withdrawing from people
  • Dramatic mood changes
  • Having feelings of failure
  • Acting impulsively or recklessly
  • Lack of interest in the things that they usually love.


Words have the power to heal just like they have the power to destroy.

Here are some things to say that will make your loved one feel better:

  • You’re not alone in this. I am here with you.

As I have previously mentioned, being someone who suffers from mental illness can feel quite lonely and isolating. Telling them that you will be there for them will help with these feelings a lot.

  • You are not going crazy.

Due to society, many people with mental illness convince themselves that they are crazy because they are shunned by society and judged.

  • Your mental health does not define you.

Telling someone that their mental health struggle does not define who they are or what makes up their identity can release them from the fear that they will never be “normal again”.

I hope these simple tips on how to support your loved one when they struggle with mental illness were helpful to you. It can be tough when you don’t understand what is going on in their head when they are struggling, but these tips should help.

Support is a huge need during a time like this.

With love,

Anne xx

About The Author…

Anne is from Ireland where she is taking time off after school to focus on her mental health. She is also an assistant at Quiet Nonsense and rubs her own blog with topics including travel, mental health and so much more. Anne dreams of/ is working towards becoming a professional blogger.

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