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6 Tangible Ways to Love Someone With a Mental Illness

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Mental illnesses can be tough, for those with them and those around them. It can take a lot of extra effort to care for someone who struggles with their mental health. It means understanding what they are going through and accepting that your relationship with them might be a little different than those with most other people. But I believe knowing these things can help you fulfill your side of any relationship with someone who has a mental illness.

1. Ask questions.

Being educated in a general sense is great. But don’t be afraid to ask specific questions so you can better understand what the person is dealing with.

2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. But always apologize.

You might not do the right thing the first time. The first time you deal with someone having an anxiety attack, you might not be of any help. But the important thing is that you were there for them and you want to get better so you can help them more in the future.

3. Don’t push.

It might take time before they are ready to tell you a lot about their mental illness. But that’s OK. Give them time and space and make sure they know you are willing to listen when they are ready to talk.

4. But don’t let yourself be pushed away.

For a variety of reasons, some people with mental illnesses are afraid of letting people in. It could be trust issues or past trauma but whatever it is, let them know you are there for them. They might not want to be close right away, but don’t let that deter you.

5. Reassure them.

Especially with anxiety and depression, small things you say can have a huge effect on them. If they start to worry they are losing you, tell them they’re not. Even if you have to tell them many times. Make them feel secure because sometimes that is all people need.

6. Don’t be scared.

It may seem terrifying to deal with a friend or significant other having a panic attack or going through a depressive episode. It may seem scary to talk them through moments when they get triggered and can’t even tell you what it was that triggered them. But you being there for them is sometimes all you can do. Make them feel safe. You don’t need to be scared and neither do they, because you are prepared to help them in any way you can.

Unsplash photo via Ian Dooley

Originally published: June 20, 2018
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