If someone has chosen to open up and disclose a mental health condition to you, it’s important to respond in a compassionate and supportive way. It can be daunting to receive this information but it's important for the person who shared to feel heard and understood. It’s also an opportunity to deepen your bond with whoever shared this information with you. Here’s our best advice for responding:
1. Acknowledge their courage
If someone opens up to you about a mental health struggle, take a moment to acknowledge their courage. This will immediately make them feel seen and lets them know that you acknowledge their bravery and want to support them.
2. Thank them for trusting you
Take the time to thank them for trusting you with any details that they may have shared. Let them know that you value their trust and will respect the information they gave to you—and honor their privacy by keeping whatever they’ve shared to yourself. You can also say you’re grateful for the friendship/relationship in general.
3. Ask how you can help
Depending on the relationship you share with this person, it's important to ask how you can help. This could include offering emotional support, providing resources, or even just listening non-judgmentally if they want to talk more about it. It’s important to phrase this as a question, such as, “What would be the best way I could help?” rather than assuming you know how to help or immediately offering advice. If it feels like too much of an open-ended question, or too much pressure for them to come up with ways you can help, consider providing a few options. You could let them know a few ways you’d like to help if they want it, such as listening to them. Remember to only offer support that feels good for you, and be clear about your limits and boundaries. For example, you can offer to take calls or answer texts until a certain time of day, or be clear that you can provide emotional support but not financial support.
Providing support to others can be draining, so be sure to first support yourself and then others.
4. Let them know you’re there for them
No matter what your relationship looks like, make sure that your friend knows that you care about them and are available to help, whether it’s being there to listen, provide advice, or send encouragement. A gentle phrase like “I’m here for you” lets them know that you want to be a part of their support system and that they’re not alone.
5. Let them know it won’t change the way you see them or your relationship
Often, mental health struggles come with feelings of shame and embarrassment. It can go a long way to reassure them that their mental health condition does not change the way you see them or the support you are willing to provide. In fact, these conversations often make your relationship stronger! You can even let them know that you’re so glad you were able to have such a deep conversation and you’re proud to be connected to them.
6. Offer a time when it might be helpful to check-in or follow-up on the conversation
Instead of letting the conversation simply end and not being sure about how to approach the topic in the future, start to set some expectations and get curious. For example, you can ask:
- I appreciate you letting me know about this. Is it something you want to talk about more frequently?
- I’m so glad you brought this up and we’ve been able to chat about it. Are you open to me checking in with you about this every so often?
- Is there anything I can do to help until the next time we chat about it?
This will help you gauge whether they want to talk about it more often or not. Sometimes people share because they want you to know, but they don’t desire any help or may not want to talk about it in the future.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that this person in your life feels supported and valued, no matter what their mental health condition may be. If they ever need more help, or their mental health condition is starting to impact your own mental health, consider referring them to other resources they may find helpful like a therapist.
Here’s a helpful article for how to find a mental health professional.
Finally, always remember to show compassion and understanding when responding to someone sharing a mental health condition with you. This can make all the difference in helping them feel safe and secure enough to open up about their struggles and even seek out additional help if needed. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about how to support someone dealing with mental health issues - it truly makes a difference!
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Touchy Feely does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this company is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.
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