What to Do – and Not Do – When Someone Has a Mental Health Condition

Posted October 17th, 2012 by

Have you ever wondered how best to interact with someone who is living with depression, bipolar disorder or another mental health condition?  Have you worried that you’re saying or doing the wrong things?

Another way to support a friend or family member with a mental health condition is to participate in an awareness walk.  Learn more about the National Association of Mental Illness’s annual walks held around the country.

Last week we recognized Mental Illness Awareness Week on the blog, and to continue our coverage, today we thought we’d share with you some of the tips suggested by our members in a ongoing forum discussion entitled “What NOT to Do with the Mentally Unwell.”

What our members say not to do…

  1. Don’t suggest activities that interrupt their regular sleep schedule.
  2. Don’t imply they are faking just because they “look okay” to you.
  3. Don’t ask if they are taking their meds every time something happens.
  4. Don’t get upset because you can’t fix it – or make it better.
  5. Don’t act like they are “made of glass” and avoid dealing with them.
  6. Don’t push the latest cure-all you saw on TV or read about.
  7. Don’t suggest that they should “snap out of it” because “it could be worse.”
  8. Don’t talk down/louder/slower as if they are a child or have low IQ.
  9. Don’t buy into the stigmas or stereotypes and forget who they really are.
  10. Don’t abandon them just because they are depressed or unwell.

What they suggest you do instead…

  1. Do give them a hug for no reason but because you love them.
  2. Do be gentle with your words and be an anchor amidst the storm.
  3. Do make chicken soup and keep the fridge stocked with favorites.
  4. Do listen and ask questions, and don’t feel like you have to relate.
  5. Do remember that it’s okay if you don’t know what to do or how to help.
  6. Do call or email just to let them know that you are there for them.
  7. Do offer to go on an evening stroll or a walk in the park.
  8. Do allow them to be alone if desired and come to you when ready.
  9. Do know that you don’t have to cheer them up – only help keep them safe.
  10. Do remember they are the same person they always were, just with a diagnosis.

Do you have other suggestions to add?  Or perhaps a different perspective?  Share your insights in the comments section, and if you’re not already a member of PatientsLikeMe, connect with thousands of others like you in our active mental health community.


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