Whether you have a parent, a partner, a sibling, or a friend living with a mental health disorder, it can sometimes be difficult to know the best way to support them. In this article, we’ll go over five constructive ways to show your loved ones that you’re there for them while also maintaining healthy boundaries.

1. Educate yourself. The first step in supporting a loved one who has a mental health disorder is to learn more about the disorder itself. What are the symptoms, the treatments, the ways the disorder can manifest itself? Not only can this help you to empathize with your loved one’s experience more fully, but it can help you understand behaviours that may seem strange at first glance, giving you an additional perspective and helping you not to judge. Learning about your loved one’s disorder also shows them you care deeply about what they are going through. It displays your empathy for their everyday thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and experiences.
2. Encourage them to get treatment. Try to avoid constantly pushing treatment on your loved one or using phrases like “You need therapy,” which can sound very inconsiderate and offensive. However, encouraging your loved ones to get the help they need shows that you care and that it’s okay to reach out for help. Remember, you can (and should) support your loved one, but it’s not your job to be their therapist or to solve all of their problems for them. Instead, you’re there to help them along on their journey to improve their mental health themselves.
3. Be willing to listen. Oftentimes, your loved one may need someone to simply listen to what they’re going through. It can be very cathartic to talk about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, which is why it’s so common to turn to a friend or family member when you’re going through a tough time. In many cases, your loved one probably won’t even expect you to provide advice or suggestions. It’s more about being a good listener, empathizing with their experience, and showing that your loved one can count on you to be there for them.
4. Offer your assistance. Remind your loved ones that you are there for them and will help them in various ways. But do remember that it’s their job to take responsibility and improve their mental health, although you can be there to assist them along the way. One way you can offer assistance is to help your loved one seek out resources. For example, say they are questioning whether they are addicted to the internet. You could share this assessment from Mind Diagnostics with them, along with articles or books about addiction so that they can educate themselves. Or if your loved one lives with a mental health disorder such as depression that makes it hard for them to complete everyday tasks, you could help them clean the house or cook a meal.
5. Remember to take care of yourself. Taking care of or supporting a loved one who has a mental health disorder can be very stressful at times. Be sure to engage in regular self-care and to be aware of how you feel emotionally and physically. There’s no shame in needing some time and space for yourself; as the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. So be sure to fill your cup before attempting to pour it into someone else’s!

The Bottom Line

When a loved one has a mental health disorder, it’s only natural to want to help them. As long as you observe healthy boundaries and continue to care for yourself, it’s a great idea to support your loved ones in this way. You can educate yourself on their mental health disorder, encourage them to get treatment when appropriate, be willing to listen, and offer assistance when possible. This will help your loved one to see that others do care about them and that they aren’t alone in their journey to improve their mental health.