If a friend told you “you need help,” how do you think you would react? Would you be touched someone cared — or would you be offended? Defensive? Deny, you have a problem? Sometimes the best of intentions can have unintended consequences.
Being told that you need help may be interpreted as “there is something wrong with you” or “there is something bad about you” and trigger a self-defensive denial that anything is wrong. Maybe there isn’t, but maybe there is, and you have just pushed that person farther away from treatment. It is no secret that there remains a prominent mental health stigma we need to overcome in our society. If you feel the need to tell someone exhibiting mental health symptoms that they need to seek treatment, there are better ways to start a conversation that sounds more caring.
State Your Observations
If you notice a change in a person’s behavior, it is important not to point it out to them in a way that portrays it as their fault. Coming across as accusatory may make the person feel inferior and that you are blaming them for having a problem that they have no control over. Your words may even be interpreted as condescending. You may have legitimate concerns, such as noticing they are no longer partaking in their favorite hobby or they have been sleeping more than usual. However, whatever your observations, it is essential to express concerns without judgment and show that you are confronting them because you care.
See How They Want You to Check In
It can be overwhelming if you frequently check in with a loved one who has a mental illness and approach them as if their symptoms are criminal or “bad.” Instead, you should ask that person what they need from you. They may ask you to text them once in a while or have specific questions they’re comfortable with you asking. They may be willing to openly talk about their symptoms or wish for you to provide a distraction. It is essential to check in with someone on their terms to avoid causing discomfort or distress.
Help Them Seek a Mental Health Professional
Mental health disorders can decrease motivation which can make reaching out to a therapist challenging. If your loved one is ready to seek help, ask them if they want you to help them find a mental health professional. Make it clear that you are not requesting they seek mental health treatment because you think there is something wrong with them, but because you want to support them in finding more balance in their life. It is essential to be kind and open around someone who has a mental illness and be sensitive when offering your support.
With the stigma surrounding mental health, many people are afraid of seeking treatment for fear of how their loved ones will react. Telling a loved one they need help may make them feel inferior. It is essential to offer your support out of concern and love and ensure you are not judging them or making them feel out of place. At Alta Loma, we understand the stigma surrounding mental health and are here to help you. We can provide you with individualized therapy, life and coping skills education, a long-term continuum of care, and more. Call us at (866) 457-3843 for more information.