How to Offer Mental Health Support

There are many ways to help a friend or family member who is experiencing mental health challenges. Don’t be afraid to Speak Up and start the conversation. Step Up by following these simple steps:

  1. Read Up on warning signs for suicide and symptoms of mental illness.

  2. Speak Up and talk openly about what he/she is experiencing.

  3. Listen Up and really hear what he/she is saying and feeling.

  4. Link Up with local resources. Offer to get help together.

  5. Follow Up and offer continued support.

Just one person reaching out can make a difference. It’s Up to Us. Here are some more specific ideas:

  • Reassure them that they are not alone, that you care and will continue to support them.

  • Encourage them to talk openly about how they’re feeling and listen carefully. Instead of telling the person what you think they should do, share what has worked for you or offer a resource to learn about what has worked for others.

  • If a person shares their diagnosis with you, learning more about it to understand what the person might be experiencing, what you might expect to see as a friend or loved one and how to best support them may be helpful to you both.

  • Stay in touch through regular phone calls and visits to help them feel less isolated.

  • Invite them to dinner, movies, sporting events and other activities. Even if they refuse at first, continue to issue invitations periodically.

  • Offer to run errands, cook meals, take children to activities or provide other assistance.

  • Include them in your plans for activities that you know they have enjoyed in the past. Spend time with them doing hobbies or playing sports.

  • Encourage exercise by offering to go for a walk together or engage in some other type of physical activity you know they enjoy.

  • Cook healthy meals together at your home or theirs, or offer to bring over a healthy meal on occasion.

  • Talk about the future. People who are experiencing a mental illness may have feelings of hopelessness and have trouble seeing beyond their current state.

  • Be patient and don’t push for too much too soon. Understand that they have a legitimate medical condition and that recovery takes time.

  • Point out small signs of progress, such as saying, “I see you’re working in your garden again.”

  • Offer to go with them to medical appointments to provide support.

  • Don’t ignore or dismiss remarks about suicide.

  • Take immediate action if a friend or family member appears to be in crisis. Call the Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 for help 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.