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Talking About Mental Health With Friends and Family

January 3, 2020


One of the most difficult things that we can experience is noticing that we have a family member or a friend or a partner or even a child who's struggling with a mental health concern and a question that I often get asked is: how can I actually help a friend or a family member who is struggling? There's a few things that I can recommend in situations like these. The first is to set aside an appropriate time and place to talk to the person that you're concerned about. Setting the stage, making sure that you have your undivided time and attention to actually communicate your concerns can be really helpful. The second is expressing your concern and expressing your intention. This can often start by saying, "I've been worried about you because I've noticed that you appear depressed lately, or, I think that you have been drinking too much lately." Being really clear about what the specific behaviors are that are concerning and being clear about the fact that we're worried and we're only trying to help or do what's best for the person that we're concerned about. The third is to find the next action step. How can I actually help you? Can I help you to find a doctor? Can I contact your insurance company for you? Can I go to your appointment with you? And really identifying a tangible way in which you can be supportive and helpful and getting your family member or friends buy-in on taking that next step together. Fourthly, frequently checking in. Oftentimes we take that initial step but then we don't necessarily follow up. So checking in frequently with our friend or family member. "How's it going? Is there anything that you need? Do you like your therapist or your doctor who you've been seeing or should we look for somebody else?" Frequently checking in with the person who is struggling can be really important and allowing your loved one to feel supported. And the last step, which is perhaps the most important one, is letting go of our expectations. Although we might have positive intentions and a really genuine desire to help a family member or friend who is struggling, it's important to recognize that each person is on their own journey and we have to provide them with support and meet them wherever they're at. Oftentimes, we have expectations that that should look a certain way and we get disappointed or frustrated when our loved ones are not willing to take that step that we want them to take. So it can be really important to release our expectations of what we want the other person to do and meet them where they're at.

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