We all want to help the loved ones in our lives get through whatever troubles they’re dealing with. However, when it comes to the topic of mental health, it can be so sensitive that we’re worried we can end up making things worse. Here are a few tips on what to avoid, and what options you have instead to make sure you’re being respectful, helpful and, most importantly, loving.
Don’t Diagnose Them
This is cardinal sin number one. You don’t know what they’re dealing with, only what you’re worried they’re dealing with. Trying to diagnose them can, at best, make it seem like you don’t know what you’re talking about but, at worst, can lead to risky ways of trying to cope with the issue based on bad information. Be aware of the signs of poor mental health, but don’t force your findings onto them.
Don’t Try to Share Their Experience
You may have had a depressive episode at some point in your life, or been worried about your alcohol consumption, but that’s not the same as chronic depression or substance abuse. It can feel like you’re minimizing their experience by pretending you’ve gone through the same thing, so don’t.
Don’t Push Them in any Direction They Don’t Want to Go
Laying out the options for how to actively deal with mental health is great. Recommending a clinical psychologist or women’s rehab center can be helpful. However, trying to make decisions on their treatment for them can make it seem like they’re losing even more control, which can be incredibly frightening. Explore the options, but be aware that treatment only works when the patient makes an active choice to get involved in it.
Don’t Try to Get Them to Change Their Perspective
Well-intended as it is, telling someone they just need a change of attitude, or that they need to focus on the good in their lives, does not help. For one, certain conditions such as PTSD, ADHD, and schizophrenia, are completely unrelated to perspective. But you can also detract from the very real impact of life’s challenges, and the fact the emotional illness is not always logical. In fact, it’s often characterized as an inability to react healthily to challenges in life.
Don’t Accidentally Indict Them
When you tell someone “you can get better if you want to” or “you have everything you need to get better”, what they are most likely to hear is “what aren’t you trying hard enough?” It’s easy to see how this can exacerbate the impact of depression or anxiety. Sometimes, people do not have everything they need to get over a mental health issue. Sometimes, they need help and that’s what you should be there to offer above all else.
Make sure that, no matter what you say, it comes from a place of love and a desire to help. Even if you’re not as immediately helpful as you could be, opening up the dialogue and giving your loved one room to explore their own concerns is crucial.
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