April 21, 2022

How to support friends and family struggling with their mental health

Being honest about mental health issues can be challenging for anyone. Even with the people closest in our lives, being vulnerable takes courage. Though the cultural conversation surrounding mental health has opened many up to subject, these thoughts and feelings can be intensely personal and hard to communicate. Creating a vocabulary surrounding mental health is important for all of us. When we normalize talking about our emotions and mental health challenges, we invite others to do the same.

When a friend or family member comes to you with their personal mental health challenges, it can be hard to know the ‘right’ thing to say. The reality is that each person will respond differently to different support. This is why it is important to ask them how you can best be supportive. Some people won’t know the answer, but it can be empowering for the person to be asked what they need.

Mental health issues can feel overwhelming for those experiencing them. Try not to belittle the experience by minimizing or trying to ignore the issue. Work on using validating statements like, “that sounds really challenging” or “I hear you and am here for you”. If you don’t understand the issue at hand, educate yourself on the symptoms that the person is experiencing. This little bit of research can go a long way when supporting a friend in need.

In line with feeling overwhelming, mental health issues can make small tasks seem disproportionately daunting. An easy way to support a friend is to offer to help them with the small tasks. Whether it be helping cook a meal or helping the person find a therapist, doing these small tasks can alleviate stress for your loved one.

If you are worried that the person might harm themselves or others, you can provide them with local mental health services like the ones below for New York City. In the event of an emergency, call 911.

24/7 NYC Well Hotline
1-888-NYC-WELL or Text “Well” to 65173

Written by Jessy Pucker, LMSW

Photo Cred: Canva



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