You probably have more friends with mental illness than you think. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States – 43.8 million people – experience mental illness in a single year. One in 25 adults – 9.8 million people – experience a serious mental illness that significantly affects their daily activities. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a close friend disclose to you their mental illness, you have the responsibility of learning about their mental illness and what you can do to support them the most. This may seem like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be.
Depending on their mental illness, there are a variety of things you can do to be more supportive. For one, maintaining that open communication about what they need from you can be very beneficial. The government’s mental health site states that asking questions such as “can we talk about what you’re experiencing?”, “what else can I help you with?”, and “what has helped you deal with similar issues in the past?” as a few effective strategies for learning more about your loved one.
There are a few key factors you want to consider knowing to provide support to your friend: 1) know how to connect them to people who can help them – such as the National Suicide Hotline number (1-800-273-8255) or local support groups, 2) communicate in a straightforward manner when it comes to mental health, 3) speak to your friend in a level that is appropriate for them, 4) discuss mental health when your friend feels safe and comfortable, and 5) watch for reactions during your conversation and slow down or go back if your friend looks confused or upset.
Lastly, recognizing the signs that something serious could be going on will help you ensure your friend is okay. These signs may warrant further communication:
- Withdrawing from social activities or appearing “down” for 2 weeks or more
- Self-harming behaviors
- Threatening to take one’s life or making plans to do so
- Risky behaviors
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no apparent reason
- Not eating, vomiting, or using laxatives to lose weight
- Significant changes in mood
- Repeated use of alcohol or drugs
- Drastic changes in overall behavior, appearance, or eating habits
- Difficulty concentrating or staying still
Support doesn’t have to be challenging. It can be as easy as learning more information, asking questions, and checking in. Make the decision to consider these details so that you can support your loved one in the best way possible – you may save their life by doing this.
New Vista Behavioral Health is home to several world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery treatment programs. If you or your loved one is ready to begin treatment, call us today at 888-316-3665 for a consultation.