5 Ways to Support a Friend Dealing With Mental Illness

It's hard to see someone you love not loving themselves. It's even harder not knowing what you can do to help. This is never an easy topic to write about, but it is important. While support does not guarantee a steadier recovery, it may give the person additional strength to fight against his or her illness. Mental illness is a lifelong battle. There are easy days and harder ones. There is no quick fix or magic treatment. If you have a friend who is going through this, there are things you can do to be supportive.

1. Do your research.

One of the most important things you can do is be informed. This will help you be more sensitive. It will also help you gain perspective on what could be going on inside your friend's mind. Having this sort of insight can help you try to better understand and meet the needs of your friend. 

2. Be a good listener.

If your friend trusts you enough to open up to you about his or her struggles, then make the effort to truly listen to what they have to say. Don't interject while they are talking with your own opinions and your own advice. Let them open up to you. Be their shoulder to cry on. Be their rock. A lot of times people don't listen to understand, they listen to respond. Don't make this mistake, because sometimes the best thing that you can do is just listen and be there. 

3. Don't guess, ask them.

Not every person dealing with mental illness is the same. Don't just assume what is best for your friend based on what you have read. If there is something you're unsure about, just ask them. Asking what they think or what they want is a simple way to show them that you care. 

4. Take care of yourself. 

In all honesty, this might be one of the harder things to do. It may seem counterproductive, but taking the time to look after yourself can help you be better able to support your friend. It's a lot harder to try to help someone who is going through something when you yourself are struggling with your own problems. It can also be easy to neglect yourself when you are focusing all of your attention on someone else's well-being. It's all about finding the balances in life. 

5. Understand that your support does not guarantee that they will get better.

The hardest part about seeing someone you love go through this is knowing that no matter what you do, sometimes it might not always help. You can't let yourself fall into a mindset where you see yourself trying to "fix" or "save" your friend. That's just not how this works. The road to recovery is not a straight one. No matter how much you love someone, sometimes you can't save them. All you can do is make sure that you are always there to pick them up if ever they should fall. 

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