24 Questions People With Mental Illness Wish You'd Ask

If you don’t know what it’s like to have a mental illness, but have a loved one who does, sometimes it can be hard to know what to say. Even with the best intentions, you might find yourself avoiding the subject all together or giving unsolicited advice that doesn’t end up being that helpful.

Knowing what to ask in these moments — moments you want to show a loved one you care but don’t know how — can be key.

So, we asked our Mighty readers who live with mental illnesses what questions they wished others would ask them.

Here’s what they had to say. Hopefully some of these can help you start an important conversation with someone with a mental illness:

1. “Sometimes I wish people would just ask me normal things. To get coffee, or what I thought about last night’s show. My mental illness has pushed so many people away, they forget I’m a person just like everyone else underneath it all.” — Sarah Dawn Benich

A quote from Sarah Dawn Benich that says, "Sometimes I wish people would just ask me normal things. To get coffee, or what I thought about last night's show."

2. “I wish people would keep inviting me places. I may say, ‘No’ most of the time, but one day I may say, ‘Yes.’ Don’t give up on me!” — Alex McFarlane

3. “I wish they would ask to spend time with me.” — Christine Heckler

4. “When my mental illnesses come up in conversation, I wish people would ask, ‘What do you need from me?’ I don’t need anything tangible from them. I just need someone to listen and not judge.” — Chelsea Noelani Gober

5. “Ask, ‘Will you help me understand what it’s like living with your condition?'” — Christina Chalgren

A quote from Christina Chalgren that says, "Will you help me understand what it's like living with your condition?"

6. “Ask me how I truly feel. Instead of the generic ‘How are you?’ say ‘I’ve noticed you’re not yourself and I want to know how you’re really feeling.’ Then listen to what I say after you ask without judgment.” — Marlena Davis

7. “I wish others would ask me about my diagnosis and how it affects me instead of making assumptions.” — Alison Taylor 

8. “Honestly, I wish people would treat me like anyone else. I wish they would ask the same questions.” — Krystal Phillips 

9. “How are you really doing?” — Amber Yats

A quote from Amber Yats that says, "How are you really doing?"

10. “How has living with this condition shaped who you are today?” — Lindsay Ballard

11. “‘Do you need to talk?’ Sometimes just venting or talking about how/what I’m feeling can make it a little better.” — Lindsey Hemphill 

12. “Sometimes I need a genuine check in on how I’m doing; then don’t let me off the hook when I answer, ‘I’m fine.'” — Danielle Rupp

A quote from Danielle Rupp that says, "Sometimes I need a genuine check in on how I'm doing; then don't let me off the hook when I answer, 'I'm fine.'"


13. “I wish people would ask my son [who has a mental illness] how successful he feels today. Something to make him think about what he achieves every day. Just normal everyday conversations will do. No need to be fancy or use a psych degree. Talking is simply enough.” — RooDee Clayden

14. “I just want people to ask me how I am, how I’m feeling and if I’d like some company. I know I’m withdrawn, and I may not even say yes to plans, but it would be nice to know people care and still want to see me.” — Hayley Lyvers

15. “‘How can I help you?’ Simple, but so important.” — Brandi Argo Barnes

A quote from Brandi Argo Barnes that says, "'How can I help you?' Simple, but so important."

16. “Ask me what it’s like and what I need before assuming you know and trying to help by doing things that don’t actually help.” — Katie DeMore

17. “I wish that on the rare occasions I decide to open up, people would ask questions about how it feels or what it’s like rather than changing the topic straight away because they’re uncomfortable. It makes me feel like a freak. Some acceptance and acknowledgement would be nice. You don’t have to understand — I just want you to listen.” — Chantelle Corbell

18. “‘I noticed you’ve been distant. Want to [have dinner, go for a walk, help me with (whatever task), have a netflix date, etc]?'” — Rachel Jackson

A quote from Rachel Jackson that says, "'I noticed you've been distant. Want to [have dinner, go for a walk, help me with (whatever task), have a netflix date, etc]?'"

19. “Please ask me about normal things in normal ways. If you think I am slipping into serious depression, please don’t take it as license to invade my privacy with questions regarding medication, doctors or treatments. I’m not a child to be monitored. I am an adult who fully understands I have a chronic, yet manageable condition.” — Jennifer Wydra 

20. “‘What can I do to be there for you, and help you feel as supported as I can?'” — Jess Cochran

21. “I really wish people would come out and ask me if my depression/anxiety is acting up rather than making assumptions. I won’t be offended if you ask me directly, I promise.” — Sarah Cecilia Flanigan

A quote from Sarah Cecilia Flanigan that says, "I really wish people would come out and ask me if my depression/anxiety is acting up rather than making assumptions. I won't be offended if you ask me directly, I promise."

22. “‘How can I support you?’ Sometimes people think they know what will help, but it actually makes things worse. Sometimes I need someone to listen to me. Sometimes I need a distraction. Sometimes I need to be alone. Sometimes I need a hug — there’s no way to know what I need, and asking shows you truly care and want to help in the way that will work.” — Alyse Ruriani

23. “‘How can I be a better advocate and friend for those struggling with mental illness? How can I make a difference?'” — Harmony Rose Rogers

24. “‘What’s it like?’ There needs to be more understanding about what goes on in our lives and our families’ lives. Ignorance comes from lack of understanding.” — Lisa Blanton

A quote from Lisa Blanton that says, "What's it like?"

 *Answers have been edited and shortened for brevity

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Mental Health

5 Things to Know About Staying in a Psychiatric Hospital

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and sometimes a lot of fear surrounding psychiatric hospitals. But hospitals aren’t new to me — I’ve been a psych patient for over 10 years. To clear up some misconceptions — and give some advice to anyone who may have a hospital stay in their future — [...]

We Want to Hear Your Messages to Someone You Love With a Mental Illness

If you or your loved one is affected by mental illness, The Mighty and Bring Change 2 Mind want to hear your response to this question: What’s one thing you want someone with a mental illness who’s going through a hard time to know? Send us your video response, and it might be used in [...]

Please Don’t Change the Subject When I Talk About Suicide

I recently survived a suicidal episode of depression. It wasn’t my first and it won’t be my last, but this time I became aware of something troubling about survival. It’s very anti-climactic. This is awful because surviving is a big deal. For me, it’s one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Yet as I [...]

To Anyone Dressing Like a 'Mental Patient' for Halloween

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a magic, liminal space between dark and light, where we can explore and play with meaning and identity — we can be witches or fairies, Jedis or Dr. Whos, police officers or surgeons. Also, its central rite is the Great American Candy Swap, and at our house, the kids pay a pretty hefty Almond Joy tax. As my [...]