How do I help someone who is struggling with a mental health problem?

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I’ve been asked so many times, “How do I help someone who is struggling with mental health problem?” This is one of my favorite questions. And my favorite answer to that, which is something I had to learn even as a mental health professional and as a mom, sister, daughter, coworker, and as a BFF; and that is:

You have to resist the urge to fix.

If someone you love and care for is struggling with a mental health problem, our job is not to fix them.

Our job is to be available for them, and to be a strong listening ear. If you really want to do something powerful for them, which you can do, consider the following helpful ideas:

  • Let that person know and give them reassurance that you’re going to listen and that you’re going to act on something that they ask you to act on if they ask for your help.
  • Be patient with the person.
  • Keep reassuring the person and let them know that you want to listen.
  • Practice active listening. Don’t interrupt. Don’t try to fix it for them.

Just be available and be a strong presence and a calm and soothing presence in their life.

Then, when they are ready, help them seek professional help by directing them to a list of culturally competent providers (try a database like Innopsych), staying with the, while they call a provider, help them sign up for a culturally competent text/phone service or just keep encouraging them to stick with finding a provider until they identify one who works well with them.

Our presence is always key for loved ones with mental illness, but our persistent could help save a life.

Love, Light, Science.

Dr. Alfiee