Healthy living isn’t just about what you eat or how often you exercise. A huge part of your overall wellbeing is your emotional state (and how you support the emotions of others, too). In a difficult situation—for example, when a friend/partner/family member confides in you and tells you that they’re going through a hard time—your emotional wellness is how you support others in those challenging moments.
And, as you support your loved ones, they’ll learn to support you, too.
Perhaps someone you love is dealing with depression, illness, or addiction and needs your love. Our human instinct is to want to support those we care about, but knowing what to do isn’t always easy. However, if you follow these 7 steps, you’ll be able to help your loved one in the best way possible.
Step 1: Make Sure It’s Ok To Help Them
When it comes to supporting someone who’s experiencing mental or emotional challenges, before you jump into action, ask them if it’s okay.
Are they in danger if their current situation isn’t dealt with immediately? If so, then it’s okay (and necessary!) to jump in. If not, and there are no physical signs that something is genuinely wrong, the best thing to do is be there for them in their way.
This means asking them how you can be there, what they need, and the best way to show support without being too much. If they don’t share, then ask! (And if they still don’t share, show up in the ways you can.)
It’s important to listen to what your loved ones have to say and guide them, but don’t make the mistake of forcing your opinions or advice upon them.
Step 2: Know When To Listen
Showing concern towards someone struggling with their mental condition is invaluable! When you show concern, you typically respond or say something like, “I’m sorry,” or even “That’s terrible!” But don’t let your response overshadow the actual problem(s).
Sometimes it’s better not to say anything at all and instead listen to what your friend or a family member has to say. At times, the ones closest to us are just looking for a shoulder as opposed to someone to solve their problems.
Sometimes the best thing you can be is an active, quiet support.
Step 3: Encourage
There is no such thing as “getting rid” of someone’s mental illness. This is something that stays with you, and isn’t always easy to understand (especially for people who don’t know how severe these conditions can be). It’s even more challenging for those experiencing these emotions for the first time!
Here’s where you come in: by encouraging them and giving them the confidence to get better. By showing support and positive affirmations, you’ll show that you care about them as a person instead of just saying, “I’m here for you.”
If they’re willing to seek medical attention or treatment of some kind (therapy sessions, medication, alcohol rehab, etc.), then consider accompanying them to those sessions (if they’re okay with that, of course) or checking in with them afterwards.
Step 4: Remind Them That They’re Not Alone
It can be challenging to know how to start these types of conversations, but perhaps the most important thing is that your loved one knows they’re not alone.
Whether or not you have dealt with mental illness yourself, let your loved one know about your life experiences or the experiences of others close to you so they can feel connected. Vulnerability is powerful! Not only does this show that you’ve been where they are now, but also that recovery is possible.
Step 5: Be Honest
It can be overwhelming to deal with someone going through a crisis, so at times you may feel as if you’re supposed to keep quiet about your feelings.
But in reality, the complete opposite is true.
If your loved one asks why you haven’t been by their side as often as usual, or if they bring up things from the past, tell them how you feel without holding back. Let them know that it’s scary for you, but also let them know that it’s not their fault and you will try to support them no matter what.
Step 6: Ensure Your Loved One Doesn’t Feel Judged Or Stigmatized
It’s vital that everyone affected by mental illness feels empowered to seek treatment without feeling judged or stigmatized by others. When something traumatic happens – especially if it’s done to someone else – it makes a person feel vulnerable and weak, which can cause significant setbacks in their life.
If your loved one thinks that people will never understand the struggle they’re going through or feel like everyone is judging their every action, they might not want to admit that something is wrong with them.
The best way to support someone’s emotional wellness (and in turn have yours be supported, too) is by listening without judgment and taking everything one day at a time.