cafe counsel - 7 ways to help people suffering from mental health issues

Ways to help people suffering from mental health issues.!

Life is an uphill challenge for somebody suffering from mental illness. It not only affects the concerned person but also the near ones who care about them.

But you have to remember that as difficult as the situation might appear to be, through proper treatment, many go on to lead normal and fruitful lives.

As a family member or someone who is close to them, you can provide mental health support and prove to be an invaluable resource towards their path to recovery.

Here are 7 ways that you can help them.

Symptoms to watch out for…

But before we go ahead, you might want to watch out for these symptoms…

  • Retraction from socialising.
  • Inability to function at school or work.
  • Suffering from memory lapses.
  • Inability to think coherently.
  • A disconnect from reality.
  • A noticeable change in sleeping, eating patterns.
  • Change in hygiene pattern.
  • Overindulging in alcohol or drugs.
  • Oscillating mood swings.

Do not neglect these warning signs. When you identify that something is wrong with the person you care about, do ensure that they get all the help that they need.

1. Let them know that you are there for them 

The world can seem like a very isolated place for someone undergoing mental issues.

It is a snowball effect where others start drifting away as the concerned person’s behaviour might come across as irrational. This makes the individual suffering further retreat into their shell.

As someone who cares for their well-being, you can let them know that you are here to support them. By creating a positive as well as encouraging environment and instilling faith, you can help them can get better.

Remember, it is important to be sensitive and approach them in a delicate manner rather. Steer clear from accusatory tones. You can reach out to them and use phrases like,

“It appears that you are going through a tough time. Is there anything that I can do to help?”


“Whatever you are going through, I want you to know that I am here to help and support you.”  Back your statements with observations about alternations in their behaviour.

Sheila Gangadhar, Media Professional shares her story, “When I was suffering from her mental illness, it was a testing time for everyone in the family.

Since I was in my rebellious teenage phase, approaching me was very difficult. So one day, my mother came to my room and gently told me that she saw a change in my behavioural and eating pattern and was concerned that something was wrong with me.

Also Read: Relation between Food and Mood Swings

Amma(mother) assured me that come what may, she is there to support me and take me through my treatment step by step. Knowing that I could fall back on my family gave me great confidence and faith to battle my illness.

Even today, I know that I am very lucky to have them in my life.”

2. Listen to them carefully

One of the best ways you can provide support and comfort to a person suffering from mental illness is by listening to them.

Your willingness to lend an empathetic ear can make them feel less lonely and isolated. Keep in mind that if you haven’t gone through something similar yourself, it might be hard for you to understand why they are behaving the way they are.

It is hence critical to have an open mind and not be judgemental.

You do not have to provide a solution to what they are going through but just listening to them can make a huge difference.

In case there are some serious warning signs where you feel that the loved one can be a threat to themselves or others around them, it is best to seek medical attention at the earliest.

Keep the mental health support hotline ready for emergencies.

3. Be patient and give them hope

There is a good chance that one will come out of their mental illness and lead a normal life, but this takes time and effort.

It is not uncommon for those who suffer to get in a bad mood, spiral backwards or lash out. Understand that both you and your loved one require patience to see true results.

Ensure that treatment is sought regularly. It is also equally important to keep the faith and give them hope when you see them faltering.

You can give them examples of famous people who have battled something similar and come out triumphant in the end.

Also Read: 5 Indian Celebrities who came out in the open about depression!

You can say things like,

“I am confident that you will come out of this with shining colours.” “You already seem better and things will only improve for the better.”

4. Encourage them to seek professional help

Would you self-medicate your loved one if they have some serious physical ailment? No right? The same applies to mental health as well.

When you feel that the person you are worried about is undergoing some serious issues that are coming in the way of them handling their life, it is best to encourage them to seek professional help.

An expert will be able to deal with the root cause of the problem, provide the appropriate therapy and set them on a path of recovery.

The person may or may not be receptive towards the whole idea of counselling. It is thus essential that you broach the subject matter carefully.

Do you know anybody who has undergone something similar and sought professional help? You can ask that person to speak to him or her.

You can also make them understand that it is perfectly healthy and natural to seek help from an expert. Nudge them to be a part of mental health support groups online for a faster recovery.

5. Talk about mental problems openly

No, nobody wants to be reminded of their mental illness over and over again. But having said that, it is important to talk about the subject openly, without any taboo associated with it.

Several times, Indian family members are uncomfortable discussing the issue honestly and openly which only worsens the situation. It is only when we see things for what they really are, we can bring about a change for the better.

You need to remove the ‘shame’ associated with mental illness and look at it as a delicate condition that needs to be treated.   

6. Provide a balanced support

When the individual suffering from mental illness is someone close to you like a child or spouse, it is natural that you would want to take charge of the whole situation. This, in the long run, can prove detrimental for both of you.

Remember, you want your loved one to be self-sufficient and reliant. The key lies in a balanced support. Nudge him/her to partake in everyday activities.

For example, instead of cooking every day for them, teach how to make simple recipes. Let them do little errands around the house.

Even if they are going through some challenging times, they can express themselves. Sit with them and figure out what they can do and simply cannot do by themselves. Come to a workable conclusion and take action accordingly.

Do not forget to praise or acknowledge them for their progress and handwork.

As per research, offering positive support is more effective than constantly prompting or nagging those suffering from serious mental illnesses to change themselves. The latter only worsens the situation.

7. Do not forget to take care of yourself

Always remember that when you are at your physical and emotional best, you are in a better state to provide support and take care of the other person.

Being with someone who is mentally ill can be extremely taxing to not only the individual but even those around them. Make sure that you take out the time for yourself to relax and do the things that you love.

Do not have a bleak approach towards life. Enjoy your life too.

As this can be a very trying time for you too, do not hesitate to seek counselling for yourself. The psychiatrists can provide mental health support for families of those suffering too.

Ipsita Das, HR Professional confides,

“I’ll be honest, dealing with mother who was going through mental issues did drive me up the wall several times.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved and hence it really pained me to see how she had become.

Deep within I was angry at her for robbing me of my own mental peace and sanity. It reached a point where I had to resort to therapy myself. I’m glad I did as it helped me handle my issues in a better way.

Taking out the time for myself to do the things that really mattered to me made a big difference as well.”

As challenging as day to day life can be for the person suffering from mental illness and those around them, bear in mind with consistent treatment from a professional, all of your lives can improve and come back to the state of normalcy.

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