How to support people with mental illness

Emily Meyerhoffer-Kubalik, a university counselor, helps with student mental health issues. She sat in her office in counseling services after talking to one client. 

Mental illness has been a rising problem for people. It can have a negative impact on people’s lives, or even threaten their lives. If you are a person with mental illness, it’s important to identify the signs and symptoms of mental health issues and know about how to seek help. Even if you don’t personally deal with a mental illness, people around you may have mental illness. Therefore, it’s necessary to know how to comfort and support them.

With a physical illness, people obtain information through a doctor, without support from other groups. However, people may have little knowledge about mental illness. They may not know where to go or who to turn to. People may feel shame to discuss mental health conditions.

“Almost every area of the life can be impacted by a mental health issue,” said Emily Meyerhoffer-Kubalik, a university counselor from Counseling Services in Washburn University. “It’s essential to notice that mental illness impact can be everywhere in our life.”

There is a large amount of people with mental illness. People who have mental illnesses are not alone. Mental illness is very common among students today.

Almost 20 percent of adults in America experience a mental illness. One in 25 adults in America live with a serious mental illness, According to National Institute of Mental Health.

More than 75 percent of all mental health conditions begin before the age of 24, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness. Mental illness is included. It’s why college is such a critical time for people. College student should pay attention to the people around themselves.

There are some common mental illnesses. The top five most commonly diagnosed mental illnesses are depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders and addiction to alcohol and drugs.

Therefore, people should pay attention to what they say and how they act towards people around them.

If you know a friend, classmate or faculty member with mental illness, you are probably wondering what you can do to help.

Support, compassion and respect matter for people with mental illness. The participation in people’s recovery can be offering help, talking to them and listening to them. Different forms of therapy, medications and community services help many individuals recover from mental illness. Besides therapy, support from friends, peers and families has an essential element in the recovery process of people with mental illness.

“If you are concerning somebody with mental illness in your life, what you can do is to listen to people who have mental illness and support them,” said Meyerhoffer-Kubalik. “If they want to seek help, you can encourage them to come to the counseling service on campus.”

When you are supporting someone close to you, here are some tips when talking to people with mental illness.

 Be careful about your description of the mental illness. You can educate yourself about the illness symptoms and the diagnosis and helpful tips through libraries and the Internet. If you are on campus, the counseling service and health center are good resources.

Be relaxed and patient when talking about mental conditions. People with mental health illness may feel scared and nervous towards their mental conditions. It’s important not to bring stressful feelings to these kinds of situations.

Listen carefully to your friends, faculties or family members. You can’t discount him/her, even if you don’t believe they have the symptoms of the illness. You need to recognize the feelings that the individual is experiencing and try to accompany him/her. People often dislike being told that they’re sick, what they are feeling and what they should do.

 Encourage the individual to be active. He/she can speak to people around or healthcare provider. The individual can go to see a doctor or seek for help from the counseling service on campus. 

Respect the individual. You can be aware of the individual’s need through your conversation. He/she also have the right to be treated with dignity that you would give other people.

These tips can be helpful for your friends, families or faculty members to recover. Knowing when and how to give support can be difficult.

There is something that people are not supposed to talk about with somebody who has mental illness.

“Anything that’s judgmental and estimating about mental health would be unhelpful,” said Meyerhoffer-Kubalik. “The most important thing is to be supportive and to care about them by listening.”

It may be more difficult for them to recover without the support from the people around them. If someone with mental illness is not treated appropriately, it can possibly lead to a serious result. The individual can feel isolated if he/she lacks company. What’s more, it’s possible for the individual to feel injustice and disrespected by people saying the wrong things to him/her.

Mental illness can affect the individual’s life in a negative way in many aspects. The impacts are different for different people in various environment.

Mental illness affects students’ academic life. A student with mental illness lack the motivation they need, especially when they feel depression or struggle with some other issue. It affects his/her performance in class. It distracts them from focusing on study.

Mental illness also affects people’s relationships. Their mood may be anxious. It makes their relationship strenuous due to misunderstandings and arguments. In this aspect, it’s important to be patient with people that deal with mental illness.

Support and comfort are important to people with mental health issues. If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health, please go to Counseling Services on campus, or contact them through email at [email protected].