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What Not to Do: Seven Things to Keep in Mind When Helping Someone with a Mental Health Challenge

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 a person is impacted by a mental health challenge, family, friends and peers can play an important role on their journey to recovery.

Many people who are facing a mental health challenge will delay getting the help they need, which can make recovery even more difficult. The support of loved ones can help the person recognize how they are feeling, the impact it is having on their life, and the need for professional support or treatment.

That’s why it is critical that as a Mental Health First Aider and advocate of those in need, you know how to provide support in the best way possible.

There are several important ways you can provide support, including offering consistent emotional support and understanding, giving the person hope for their future and providing practical help with tasks that may be difficult.

It’s also important to know what not to do. It can be overwhelming, tiring and frustrating at times to help someone who is dealing with a mental health condition. In these situations, take time to protect your own mental health and remember that you are an important part of helping someone on their journey to recovery.

Use these reminders from the MFHA curriculum about what isn’t supportive when trying to help your loved one who may be struggling:

  1. Don’t tell someone with depression to get better. They can’t “snap out of it” or “get over it.”
  2. Do not be hostile or sarcastic when the person attempts to be responsive, but instead accept their responses as the best the person has to offer at that time.
  3. Do not adopt an overinvolved or overprotective attitude toward someone who is depressed.
  4. Do not nag the person to try to get them to do what they normally would.
  5. Do not trivialize the person’s experiences by pressuring them to “put a smile on your face,” “get your act together” or “lighten up.”
  6. Do not belittle or dismiss the person’s feelings by attempting to say something positive like, “You don’t seem that bad to me.”
  7. Avoid speaking to the person in a patronizing tone of voice, and do not look at them with an overly concerned expression.

With the right information and tools, you can #BeTheDifference for those who need it most.

Learn about other ways you can help someone who is going through a tough time and how you can #BeTheDifference for people with mental health concerns during COVID-19.