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Five Ways to Support a Loved One with Anxiety or Depression

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others call 911.

 You can also contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor.

When your loved one is struggling, you want to do everything you can to help them. And sometimes, you don’t know what that is.

As a family member or friend, it can be hard to know what to do, how to act or what to say. But your support can have a positive impact on your loved one’s long-term mental health and well-being.

In fact, according to the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum, there is evidence that support from individuals or mutual support groups may be helpful for people with depression and anxiety problems. It can also help people get the professional support they may need, as research shows people with mental illnesses are more likely to seek help if someone close to them suggests it.

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 a loved one who may be struggling with anxiety or depression.

  1. Treat the person with respect and dignity. Each person’s situation and needs are unique. It’s important to respect the person’s independence while considering the extent to which the person can make their own personal decisions.
  2. Offer consistent emotional support and understanding. It’s more important for you to be genuinely caring than to say all the right things. Your loved one needs additional love and understanding, so be empathetic, compassionate and patient. Let them know there is no risk of abandonment.
  3. Provide practical help. Offer your loved one practical help with tasks like getting groceries, cleaning or household tasks — but be careful not to take over or encourage dependency.
  4. Give the person hope for recovery. Reassure your loved one that with time and treatment, they will feel better. Offer emotional support and hope for a more positive future.
  5. Offer information. Ask your loved one if they would like information about anxiety or depression. If their response is positive, give them resources that are accurate and appropriate to the situation.

Still unsure about what to do next? Mental Health First Aid is here to help. Read these articles to learn more about ways you can #BeTheDifference for your loved ones when they need you most.

  1. How Do I Know Someone is Experiencing Anxiety or Depression?
  2. How to Help Someone with Anxiety or Depression During COVID-19
  3. How to Help Someone With Anxiety
  4. How to Help Someone Who is Having a Panic Attack
  5. How to Help Someone with Depression