For Friends and Families

For Friends and Families

Imagine if someone you loved told you they had diabetes, a serious physical health condition. It is manageable through certain medical care and will not threaten their life if they stay on the right treatment plan. How would you react? Would you be concerned, offer your support, ask what you could do to help?

Now imagine if someone you loved told you they had bipolar disorder. Would you react differently? Would you laugh and think they are “crazy”.  Would you all of a sudden be scared of them and withdraw from the relationship you once had? Mental illness is just like a physical illness, it impacts your daily life, it can most often be treated, however, the stigma is much greater. Imagine how difficult it would be to live with a mental health disorder and constantly get criticized for being different when people with physical health conditions often do not live with that same stigma.

More often than not someone you know is living with a mental health disorder and you may not even know. Friendship, companionship,  reassurance, support, and love are all ways you can help your loved one. Having a support system is very important in the process of recovery because recovery is possible and living a healthy life for those with mental health disorders is also achievable.

Here is a video that explains some of the common first signs of mental health illness

Crisis Resource: Psychiatric Crisis Kit


For more specific disorder based resources and caring tips, please visit the “disorder based resources” page or click here.



What helps and what hurts when you are caring for someone with a mental health disorder:

What helps:

*Express your concern and sympathy
*Stand up for them if they are being bullied or made fun of
*Ask questions about how they plan on managing it and their treatment options
*Reassure them that you are there to support whenever they need you
*Remind them that mental illness is treatable and make sure you can help them find good care
*Offer your help with errands, homework or anything else without making them feel like they can not do anything on their own

What hurts:

*Laughing at them when they tell you there is something wrong
*Avoid them after they open up about their mental illness
*Act differently around them and treat them like different a different person
*Act scared or unsure when you talk or “hang out”
*Ask questions that may be viewed as rude or insensitive
*Bully or make fun of them in school or anywhere else

What can you do?

  • Remind them how much you love and support them
  • Sent texts or letters that make them feel better, like “stay strong” or “you are awesome”
  • Don’t forget to stay silly and have fun, mental illness doesn’t always have to seem so serious
  • Ask if they want to go on a walk or play some sort of game
  • Don’t make them feel like they are different all of a sudden

If someone you know tells you they feel weak or ill from an eating disorder, encourage them to seek immediate medical attention. If you are a friend and feel comfortable speaking to their parents about what your friend may have disclosed to you please do so if you feel that it could help them get treatment.

If someone you know is thinking about or has attempted suicide, please help them seek immediate attention and help. The national suicide hot-line is  1.800.273.TALK, if it is an emergency please call 9-1-1. If you see someone you know attempting suicide, call 9-1-1 before trying to help, then calmly talk to them to de-escalate the situation.

Here are warning signs that you may see from someone who is suicidal:

Talking about suicide Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
Seeking out lethal means Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
Preoccupation with death Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.
No hope for the future Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
Getting affairs in order Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.
Saying goodbye Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
Withdrawing from others Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.
Self-destructive behavior Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.