This post was written in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.
Know that mental illnesses aren’t “one size fits all.”
Even if people have the same or similar issues, it’s important to realize everyone has their own way of how to best take care of themselves. There is no one universal cure/solution/medication to treat and aid mental health issues.
Simply be there, and listen when needed.
Sometimes all they need is for someone to listen. So be a good listener. It’s not about you, so pay attention to what they have to say.
Be active in your role as a mental health ally.
Don’t simply say you’re you’re here for someone else. Show it. Make your presence known as a supportive one. You can become an activist in the mental health community and participate in events that raise awareness of mental health issues. Many organizations have events to raise awareness for mental health, like NEDA Walks, To Write Love on Her Arm’s Run for It 5Ks, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks. Participating is a great way to show you care.
Educate yourself on mental health issues and become aware of resources that are available.
Do research and learn about mental health and mental illnesses so you can better understand what others are going through. You’ll never know exactly what it’s like for someone else, but educating yourself shows you care. It’s also a good idea to learn what kind of behaviors are warning signs so you can care for others. Make note of things like hotlines so you they can be used if needed.
It may also be helpful to take the time to learn about other people’s experiences with mental health struggles. Everyone’s lives and everyone’s experiences with mental health are different, but reading blogs, memoirs, and poetry is another way to help you get a better understanding of what struggling with mental health is like. Some of our favorites include blogs on To Write Love on Her Arms, If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, Boy Meets Depression by Kevin Breel, and Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.
Use your words wisely, and express empathy.
Be wary of the language and words you use as it can be offensive and insensitive to anyone with mental illnesses. Crazy is not a synonym for bipolar, schizophrenic, or having any other mental illness. Saying “died by suicide” is preferable over “committed suicide” because it doesn’t shame or criminalize the deceased or their actions.
Remember to take care of yourself too!
You can’t help someone else if you aren’t in a good place.
Ask them what they need instead of assuming.
You can never fully know what someone else is going through, so you cannot assume if or what they need, so ask them instead. Asking also shows that you care.
Encourage them to seek any additional help they may need.
Asking for help is difficult, so anyone who may need it may struggle to do so. Encouraging others to get help if they need it can give them the courage to ask for help.
Respect everyone’s need for space and time alone.
Sometimes people just need to be alone, so don’t be offended if they’re not in the mood to talk or hang out.
Treat mental health the same way as physical health, because they’re equally as important.
People have no problem talking about broken bones or casts, so there shouldn’t be a problem talking about depression or anxiety. Health is health. It’s all important.