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Helping Someone Who Doesn't Want To Help Themselves

Is there someone in your life who you feel is suffering from a mental illness? Chances are that you do. According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders affect one in four people -- which comes out to 450 million people.

This can become concerning when they are exhibiting symptoms like, but refuse to get help:

  • Hopelessness

  • Persistent sadness

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia

  • Weight gain or less

  • No longer interested in activities they wished to enjoy

  • Have expressed suicidal thoughts

So, what do you do?

First, if the situation is urgent, seek help immediately by calling 911 or 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-273-TALK.

If it’s not an urgent situation, then here’s how you can help them get the support that they need.

Listen to them.

Don’t make it about yourself or push an agenda. Instead, be empathetic and supportive and not judgmental. Right now, you just want to be there for them when they need someone to talk to.

For more listening guidelines, check out the following document from NAMI.

Offer suggestions.

You don’t want to be too aggressive. But, you should suggest that they speak with a physician or download a mental health app. You may also want to do some legwork for them and find a local therapist.

If you don’t feel like you are the right person to talk to them then ask someone who you feel is to assume this responsibility.

Continue to be supportive.

“One of the most important things you can do to help a friend or relative with depression is to give your unconditional love and support throughout the treatment process. This involves being compassionate and patient, which is not always easy when dealing with the negativity, hostility, and moodiness that go hand in hand with depression.”

Ways that you can do this are providing them with assistance if needed like taking them to or from treatment and helping them with daily chores. You could also encourage activities like exercise, going out to dinner with friends, or watching a funny movie.

Most importantly, don’t avoid them. Stay in touch and check-in with them.

Remember the journey to accepting there is a problem is theirs alone.

“Though you can help prep the ground, by having discussions and listening with an open heart, by setting clear boundaries, by offering information when appropriate,” writes Victoria Maxwell in Psychology Today. “For anyone who’s been in this position, you’re aware it takes more than one conversation. It takes many. It’s about voicing your concern with compassion.”

At the same time, it’s also “about setting boundaries for your own well-being, recognizing you are not responsible for their health and happiness,” adds Maxwell. “If you’re a parent of an adult child, this is one that is most heartbreaking to learn and understand. Letting go is tough even when the adult child is well and thriving.”

And, if you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself, you may want to seek support through a support group or mental health professional.

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