How to Help a Loved One Struggling with Mental Health
Nobody wants to watch the people closest to them struggle with mental health, whether it’s a partner having trouble getting through the day, a friend going through a recent life transition, or a parent experiencing anxiety. When it’s a child who may need support, the problem can be even more distressing.
Knowing where to start can be tough–you don’t want to add stress or overwhelm your loved one. If you’re concerned about them, read on to learn more about signs that they may need mental health support, and tips to guide them to the right care.
Recognizing the signs
How can you tell if someone you love is experiencing life’s everyday ups and downs or is dealing with a more serious mental health challenge?
Mental Health America has a helpful list of the many potential warning signs and symptoms, which can vary depending on age. These include:
- Drastic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Increasing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Social withdrawal
If you notice any of these signs, it may be time to discuss what your loved one is experiencing and if finding support could help them.
Starting the conversation
One of the most challenging hurdles in supporting someone with mental health concerns is simply starting the conversation. It’s important to show that you care, you want to help, and you’re there to listen.
Offer an empathetic, non-judgmental ear, to show that you know what your loved one is going through, and help them feel heard. You’re not a professional therapist and can’t offer a diagnosis and treatment. However, you can open up the conversation and help bridge your loved one to a trained professional who can help them feel better. You’re there to let them know they’re not alone.
To show your concern, you may want to ask open-ended questions, such as:
- It seems like you’re going through a difficult time. I care, and I’m here to listen. Is there anything you feel comfortable sharing?
- What have you been experiencing?
- Have you experienced something like this before?
- What can I do to help you find more information about what you’re going through?
- Who or what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?
- If you’d rather not talk to me, is there anyone you would feel comfortable talking to?
If your loved one is receptive to a conversation, you may be able to help them navigate care options. Mental and physical health go hand in hand, so be encouraging. Consider care for a mental health challenge as you would for a physical issue.
Professional support may be an appropriate option to assess a mental health concern and recommend the right plan. If your loved one appears open to consulting a therapist, encourage them to learn more about understanding when therapy is right for an individual, and how to find the right therapist. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (Blue Cross) members may have access to online self-guided programs, such as Learn to Live®´, to help with mild to moderate anxiety, depression, insomnia, or substance use problems, and improve overall emotional health; or wellness offerings, which can benefit mental health and overall wellness.
There are additional resources available if your loved one is a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts member:
- Visit MyBlue to see what benefits are available as part of their plan
- Explore mental health care options available to them
- They can also call Team Blue at 1-888-389-7764 to speak with a highly trained service representative
As your loved one explores and pursues care, you should remain present, patient, and compassionate. It takes time to address mental health challenges. Finding the right support and experiencing improved overall well-being don’t happen overnight. Be realistic about expectations and continue to check in with your loved one to provide support, while respecting that each individual’s path to improved mental health is unique.
Take care of you
Always remember that supporting a loved one shouldn’t mean putting your own mental or physical health aside. Your mental health should be a priority, and it’s critical to take time daily to recognize how you’re feeling and to exercise, eat well and make sure you get quality sleep. If you’re a Blue Cross member, your membership can save you up to 30 percent on wellness and holistic options like massages, yoga, acupuncture, and mind/body techniques, to minimize your own stress and anxiety. If you’re also experiencing mental health challenges, you may want to consider other options like self-guided programs or seeing a professional.