Anyone can experience mental health problems. Friends and family can make all the difference in a person’s recovery process.
You can help your friend or family member by recognizing the signs of mental health problems and connecting them to professional help.
Talking to friends and family about mental health problems can be an opportunity to provide information, support, and guidance. Learning about mental health issues can lead to:
If a friend or family member is showing signs of a mental health problem or reaching out to you for help, offer support by:
If you have, or believe you may have, a mental health problem, it may be helpful to talk about these issues with others. John Saunders, sports journalist, shares a personal story of hope and recovery from mental health problems.
Do you need help starting a conversation about mental health? Try leading with these questions and make sure to actively listen to your friend or family member’s response.
When talking about mental health problems:
Glenn Close talks about her family's experience with mental health problems, and the importance of talking and learning about mental health issues. "I challenge every American family to no longer whisper about mental illness behind closed doors," she said.
Sometimes it is helpful to make a comparison to a physical illness. For example, many people get sick with a cold or the flu, but only a few get really sick with something serious like pneumonia. People who have a cold are usually able to do their normal activities. However, if they get pneumonia, they will have to take medicine and may have to go to the hospital.
Similarly, feelings of sadness, anxiety, worry, irritability, or sleep problems are common for most people. However, when these feelings get very intense, last for a long period of time, and begin to interfere with school, work, and relationships, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. And just like people need to take medicine and get professional help for physical conditions, someone with a mental health problem may need to take medicine and/or participate in therapy in order to get better.
Seek immediate assistance if you think your friend or family member is in danger of harming themselves. You can call a crisis line or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).
If you think your friend or family member is in need of community mental health services you can find help in your area.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 200 Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C. 20201