Supporting Someone with a Mental Illness

Someone with a mental health disorder is like anyone with any other type of illness – they need care and support. Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ model for supporting someone with a mental illness. How you provide support will depend on you and the person you care about.

Some suggestions for supporting someone recovering from a mental illness include:

LEARN ABOUT THE ILLNESS. If the person you care for has been given a diagnosis, learning more about the illness can help you to understand how it affects them and how it may make them feel. It also may help you to feel more confident in providing support for them.

You can learn about mental health conditions on trusted websites: Beyond Blue, the Mental Health Information Service and the Australian Psychological Society websites all provide current and reliable information on a range of mental illnesses and their associated treatments.

DO NOT BLAME THE PERSON FOR THEIR ILLNESS. Mental health disorders are medical illnesses and are often the result of a range of biological, cognitive, emotional and social factors. Your loved one cannot help being affected by this condition. It is important to remind the person that they have an illness and that they are not to be blamed for how they feel.

BE A GOOD LISTENER. You can help someone with a mental illness by listening to them without expressing judgement. It is important to listen carefully to the person even if what they tell you is not true or is misguided, remembering that certain mental health conditions alter thinking styles. It is best to be patient and not interrupt whilst trying to be as supportive as possible.

ENCOURAGE THE PERSON TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. It is important to encourage the person to get appropriate professional help and effective treatment as early as possible. If a person does not want to seek professional help, it might be worthwhile exploring why this is the case. These reasons may be based on mistaken beliefs or you may be able to help the person overcome their worry about seeking help.

GIVE THE PERSON HOPE FOR RECOVERY. One of the most important ways loved ones can help is by instilling hope of a more positive future. Often a person with a mental illness may not be able to foresee ‘better days’. Try and encourage the person that, with time and treatment, they will feel better. Offer emotional support and hope of a more positive future in whatever form the person will accept.

There are a number of websites which offer excellent advice when it comes to supporting someone with a mental health condition: