It can be challenging and downright painful to watch your friend or loved one struggle with mental illness. Feelings of helplessness and uncertainty about what to do or fear of doing or saying the wrong thing can hold us back from intervening when we feel like we should. So what can you do to support someone you care about when they’re struggling? Below we’ll offer five tips on how to start.

How You Can Help

  1. The Check-In. Anxiety and depression lead to isolation and while it may seem like your friend or loved one is intentionally pushing you away this is likely not the case. Even brief social connection provides an emotional boost. A simple phone call, text, or email can communicate your concern and support

  2. Deep Listening. It’s common for individuals suffering from mental health challenges to feel as though sharing their experiences *?* an undue burden and spreads negativity to those who are trying to help them. Listening deeply and letting a friend know it’s okay to not be okay can mean the difference between continued isolation and connection.

  3. Empathy. An essential element to listening is accurate empathy. When we feel heard and understood we feel supported and cared for. Statements like, “it sounds like you’re really struggling.” or “it seems like you’re feeling hopeless.” can invite the other person to open up. If you find it difficult to understand a person’s emotional or mental state, try asking. It’s possible that no one has.

  4. Refrain from offering advice. It can be tempting to want to “fix” problems for someone we care about. With the exception encouragement to seek support from professionals, its best to avoid offering opinions or instructions for people with mental health challenges. Listening without giving advice conveys concern for the person instead of projecting your expert problem solving skills.

  5. Ask what they need. Be specific. Oven in an attempt to provide support we offer the go-to “let me know if you need anything.” Even with the best of intentions, this can fall on deaf ears for someone struggling anxiety or depression. The more effective approach would be to offer specific options. For example, offering to pick up groceries or run a load of laundry or simply provide companionship might help your friend or loved one more likely to accept help.


The choice to take action to help someone is a noble one. It can be hard to know how to move forward, but know it is always better to reach out rather than hold back for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. If you feel you can’t reach out or help someone without adding to the criticism or rejection, you can always refer them to a counselor, or text the crisis line at: 741741

This article was authored by Mary Holmes.


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