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How to Support Your Loved One With a Mental Illness During the Holidays

One in five adults in the United States face a mental illness in any one year – that’s almost 44 million people. For these people, the holidays can be an especially difficult time. For some, large gatherings and traveling to see family or friends can cause stress. For others, the holidays are a time of loneliness and social isolation.

For many people who are struggling, it can also be difficult to seek and get the help they need. According to Cohen Veterans Network’s 2018 America’s Mental Health study, nearly half (46 percent) of American adults have had to, or know someone who has had to, travel more than 1-hour roundtrip to get their most recent mental health care appointment

That’s why it’s important that as a family member or friend, you can recognize when your loved one with a mental illness is struggling, and how you can offer support.

Use these tips from the MHFA curriculum to support your loved ones this holiday season.

  1. Be a listening ear. Most people experiencing distressing emotions and thoughts want someone to talk to before being offered resources and information. You can support your loved ones by being there for them and listening in a nonjudgmental way.
  2. Give reassurance and information. Once a person with a mental health problem feels that he or she has been heard, it can be easier to offer encouragement and information. This includes emotional support and information about mental health problems.
  3. Ask how you can help. The holidays can be a stressful and busy time for many, including those facing a mental illness. By simply asking how you can offer support, you may be able to help with overwhelming tasks and make a difference.
  4. Encourage professional and self-help support. People with mental health challenges will generally have a better recovery if they get the right help. Encourage your loved one to seek help through a medical professional, counseling or psychological therapy or support group. Self-help strategies like meditation, exercise and self-help books based on CBT can also be helpful.
  5. Take Mental Health First Aid. If you’re still not sure how to help your loved one with a mental illness, take Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid teaches people how to identify and respond to common mental health challenges and where to turn for additional support and resources.