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15 Ways to Help Others Struggling With Mental Illness

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Sometimes, we can find ourselves fixating on our jobs, our finances, our families, our weight, our significant other (or our lack of a significant other) and what the future has in store for us, generally. It’s very easy to focus on ourselves too much in a world that doesn’t seem to slow down.

But when we do that, we run the risk of missing the signs that someone is finding things in life to be tough to handle. And we lose out on some of the simplest opportunities to make our lives and those of the people around us a little bit brighter.

Research indicates that social connectedness and a sense of belonging are the best ways to combat loneliness, isolation, depression and at the extreme end, suicidal thinking.

So today, let’s commit to spending more time on the simple acts that bring a little more kindness and connectedness to the world and to our own communities.

Here are 15 ideas to give you a jump start.

1. Check in.

Check in with a neighbor who lives alone, especially if they’re elderly, or invite a neighbor to join you for lunch or a coffee. Even if they say no, this simple gesture can mean so much to someone.

2. Invest time.

Invest more time in the people who matter most to you — family, friends, work buddies, team mates. Lock in regular catch ups, phone calls and quality time together.

3. Invite others into your life.

Invite people who might be lonely or new to town to get involved in your social circle or get involved in someone else’s. You can’t have too many friends, right?

4. Be understanding.

Try to be more understanding of people’s moods or quirky behaviors, allow them their imperfections — we all have them! Often people are dealing with much more than we could ever know about.

5. Plan activities.

Start a meet up, board game afternoon or a book club with a diverse group of friends. Take turns hosting it at home, in a park or a café. This is a great way to connect with people regularly and forge new friendships.

6. Volunteer.

Join a local community group that helps people in need. It’s a gift both ways, you feel good for giving, and someone else’s life gets better because of your efforts. Win, win!

7. Talk to young folks in your life.

A problem shared is a problem halved. So, check in each week with any young people in your life that might need a bit of extra attention. Be a listening ear for them as they navigate life. Help them feel safe to open up about their troubles to someone they trust.

8. Plan times to catch up with loved ones.

Plan catch ups or calls with anyone you know who may have lost someone special recently — it could be an absolute lifeline to them.

9. Plan reunions with old friends.

Plan a regular reunion with old friends, school mates or perhaps former work colleagues. You have shared history, if they’re good people, those friendships are worth nurturing. There’s comfort in being around people who know your stuff and like you anyway!

10. Talk to others.

Talk to people more and be friendly to everyone in your day-to-day travels. Say “hi” on public transport or compliment someone on their shoes — most people will be pleasantly surprised, and talk back. Have a chat in line at the shops and make eye contact with someone — it might be the only conversation or smile some people will have all day.

11. Engage in random acts of kindness.

Perform random acts of kindness to people who need it, and even to people who may seem like they don’t. The bonus is, it will put a smile on your face, too! 

12. Get some furry friends in your life.

Volunteer at a local animal shelter, if you have the time. There, you can meet new folk and get a “furry fix!”

13. Bring a meal to someone struggling.

Cook for someone who’s going through a rough patch. A delicious, nurturing meal made with love is the best. Drop it at their door, and tell them to enjoy as you dash off.

14. Listen.

Your time can be a great gift to someone who’s lonely or struggling with life’s ups and downs. So, let someone who is having a tough time let off some steam by being there and listening. Sometimes people just need to be heard…to say their stuff out loud to another human being they trust. Make a cuppa and sit with them.

15. Write a letter to a loved one.

Write someone you care about a letter — good old fashioned snail mail! Make it long and juicy — spend some time on it. Everyone loves getting mail (that isn’t  a bill!) and this is a special way to let someone know they are on your mind, especially if they are far away. It’s also a lot more personal than an email.

Tell us something you’ve done to help make a positive difference in someone’s life- friends, family or strangers? What’s the best thing you’ve done for someone who was having a tough time?

 R U OK? is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year. But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via kmlmtz66.

Originally published: May 23, 2017
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