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27 Ways to Be an Ally for Someone Who Has a Mental Illness

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If you aren’t one of the one in four adults − or approximately 61.5 million Americans − who have a mental illness, chances are you know someone who does. But, supporting a loved one with a mental illness isn’t always easy, and it can sometimes be hard to know what to do. The Mighty asked our readers to tell us the best ways to be an ally for someone who has a mental illness. Knowing how to support them could mean so much more than you know.

1. “They say mental illness isn’t a casserole illness — no one brings over meals. A meal or card after a hospital stay would be nice.”  — Lori Allen Bernstein 

2. “Acknowledging I have a serious problem. Many people brush off depression because ‘everyone goes through that.’” — Sharon McKinney 

3. “Understand that sometimes I need my space.” — Tia Maria

A quote from Tia Maria that says, “Understand that sometimes I need my space.”

4. “Saying, ‘You are important, you are loved.’ Sometimes, with mental illness of any kind, it’s easy to forget.”  Sam Thayer

5. My anxiety causes me to question my ability to be loved. Verbal reinforcement is a powerful tool.” — Murrin Elizabeth Brads

6. “Saying, ‘You are not a burden to me.’” — Hope Strickland Russell

7. “You can’t fix me. Let me have bad days.” — Dayna Walls-Cochran

A quote from Dayna Walls-Cochran that says, “You can't fix me. Let me have bad days.”

8. Saying, ‘I cannot claim to know how you are feeling, but I’d like to try to understand. Would you help me?’” — Christine Piltzecker

9. “Saying, ‘I love you.’ Often I feel unlovable.” — Jeni Johnson Brown

10. “Just accept what I say about my brain; your denial of my mental illness only affirms I won’t be accepted.”  — Melanie Segal

11. “Understand it’s an illness. It’s like having diabetes or asthma.” — Melissa Cote

A quote from Melissa Cote that says, “Understand it's an illness. It's like having diabetes or asthma.”

12. “Never, ever brush it off or tell us to get over it. That just reinforces what we already think — that we’re weak and incapable.” — Bekah Paskett

13. “You don’t have to ‘get it’ or ‘accept it’ to accept me. Compassionate acceptance is the best gift you can offer.” — Ross Adams

14. “My husband allows me to just be quiet.” — Amber Scott Guerrero

15. “Don’t use labels as slang.” — Susan Lampton

A quote from Susan Lampton that says, “Don't use labels as slang.”

16. Just a random text with uplifting and encouraging words is always nice. When they’re random, they always seem to come right when needed most.” — Chelsea Fleming

17. “Asking, ‘How can I help you?’”  Sharon McKinney

18. “Don’t offer miracle cures.” — Ingrid Senger-Perkins

A quote from Ingrid Senger-Perkins that says, "Don't offer miracle cures."

16. “Listening in a completely non-judgmental manner.” — Christine Dahonick

20. “Asking, ‘How are you?’ and meaning it goes along way.”  — Laurie Gardiner

21. “Hugs work wonders.” — Manda Ree

22. Accept and love me as I am, not who I used to be or who I could become.” — Joyce Drush

A quote from Joyce Drush that says, “Accept and love me as I am, not who I used to be or who I could become.”

23. “When life gets hard, just be there. Don’t run in the opposite direction.” — Lexie Nooyen 

24. “Saying, ‘I hear you. I believe you. This is not your fault.’” — Amy Tenberge

A quote from Amy Tenberge that says, "Saying, 'I hear you. I believe you. This is not your fault.'"

25. “Understand my silence or distance is not lack of caring. I’m not trying to make your life difficult, I’m trying to survive.” — Nicole Ryan

26. “I already know my anxiety and depression don’t have any rhyme or reason, no need to remind me.” — Christine Brown 

27. “Treat me like a human.” — Kate Murphy-Frank

A quote from Kate Murphy-Frank that says, "Treat me like a human."

What would you add? Tell us in the comments below. 

27 Ways to Be an Ally for Someone Who Has a Mental Illness

*Some answers have been shortened and/or edited.

Originally published: July 16, 2015
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