There are many ways to help a friend or family member who is experiencing mental health challenges. Don’t be afraid to Speak Up and start the conversation. Step Up by following these simple steps:
Read Up on warning signs for suicide and symptoms of mental illness.
Speak Up and talk openly about what he/she is experiencing.
Listen Up and really hear what he/she is saying and feeling.
Link Up with local resources. Offer to get help together.
Follow Up and offer continued support.
Just one person reaching out can make a difference. It’s Up to Us. Here are some more specific ideas:
- Reassure them that they are not alone, that you care and will continue to support them.
- Encourage them to talk openly about how they’re feeling and listen carefully. Resist the urge to give advice or talk about your own experiences.
- If a person shares their diagnosis with you, learning more about it to understand what the person might be experiencing, what you might expect to see as a friend or loved one and how to best support them may be helpful to you both.
- Stay in touch through regular phone calls and visits to help them feel less isolated.
- Invite them to dinner, movies, sporting events and other activities. Even if they refuse at first, continue to issue invitations periodically.
- Offer to run errands, cook meals, take children to activities or provide other assistance.
- Include them in your plans for activities that you know they have enjoyed in the past. Spend time with them doing hobbies or playing sports.
- Encourage exercise by offering to go for a walk together or engage in some other type of physical activity you know they enjoy.
- Cook healthy meals together at your home or theirs, or offer to bring over a healthy meal on occasion.
- Talk about the future. People who are experiencing a mental illness may have feelings of hopelessness and have trouble seeing beyond their current state.
- Be patient and don’t push for too much too soon. Understand that they have a legitimate medical condition and that recovery takes time.
- Point out small signs of progress, such as saying, “I see you’re working in your garden again.”
- Offer to go with them to medical appointments to provide support.
- Don’t ignore or dismiss remarks about suicide.
- Take immediate action if a friend or family member appears to be in crisis. Call the HELPline, a free crisis and suicide intervention hotline and referral service, at (951) 686-HELP(4357). The phone lines are answered by trained professionals available 24/7; the call is free and confidential.