Supporting People With Mental Illness Is Everyone’s Business

Recently, I was wondering about all the different reasons so many people keep silent or feel uncomfortable talking about their mental health.

For those living with mental illness, being silent might be a defense against being outed. It might be because they can’t find a way to express what’s going on in their head. They might feel like they’re the only one in the world facing this experience. Maybe if they explain, they’ll feel like a freak or be labeled a freak, so they choose to remain silent. They might not want to scare or burden their friends and family. They might be afraid of what other people will think or say about them once what’s going on in their head becomes public. These are but a few of the thoughts, feelings and circumstances that can have people living with mental illness be, at best, reluctant to seek the help they deserve.

And then there’s the flip side…

In speaking openly and comfortably about mind health matters, I’ve noticed there are also many concerns colleagues, friends and loved ones have about offering help or support. Some people don’t think it’s their business. Others hope or expect that someone else will take care if it — “It’s not my responsibility.” Some don’t know what to say. For many people they don’t feel equipped to step in and help. Others are concerned about making things worse. And then there is a genuine concern about how an offer of help or support might be accepted.

What can you do to help?

Supporting those with mind health challenges or mental illness to access appropriate help is everyone’s business: yours, mine and ours. The assumption that someone else will help at best may result in delayed treatment; at worst, a loss of life.

Talking about a person’s challenges or suicidal thoughts will not make things worse. I’ve found just having someone to listen, without judgement, to concerns and dark secrets can be a turning point in either getting treatment or the effectiveness of  treatment. Sometimes, especially early on, a person may not be aware of what is happening for them. They may be in denial of the seriousness of their situation and their need for help. As the cliché goes: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” If they choose not to drink, keep on offering the water.

It’s better to have your offer of support rejected than to never make the offer at all.

Why? Because your mind health matters.

To see more from Jacqui, visit Mind Mission

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

Related to Mental Health

When I Think of the People I’ve Met on My Mental Health Journey

So I was driving to work, just drifting between memories and my plans for the day, when there he was. Bubbling into my brain like a shy little ghost: a young man I met in an intensive outpatient group six years ago. He was quiet and very sweet. I remembered the way he would suddenly [...]

4 Ways to Make the World a Little Kinder for People With Mental Illness

I’m going to start off by being completely honest: for a while, I didn’t believe mental illness could be real – I thought positive thinking was the solution to everything. I considered myself happy and assumed people could just make a choice to feel a certain way. But eventually I would learn I was wrong, [...]

Answering 'What Are Your Plans?' as a High School Senior With Mental Health Issues

I’ll just come right out and say that I have several different mental disorders, among them: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety and trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling). The severity of each of these fluctuates. I take medications for some, and I also see a therapist once a week. I’m now halfway through my [...]

11 Things People Who’ve Struggled With Addiction Want Others to Know

Addiction is a chronic brain disease, that, like many illnesses, has both a genetic and environmental component. In fact, genetic factors account for about half of the likelihood someone will develop an addiction, while environmental factors affect how much influence those genetic factors will have. Yes, the initial decision to take drugs or that first sip of alcohol is [...]