Providing Support for a Loved One Through Mental Illness




I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. ~ Maya Angelou ~

You are at a loss, feeling helpless and frustrated and not knowing what to do – your loved one is desperate, emotional, not themselves, withdrawn, fatigued and has no energy to do things they would normally love doing.  What do you do?

I am noticing more and more loved ones are reaching out for help on how to support a family member or friend going through mental illness.  This warms my heart, and shows there is a shift happening in the way people are talking about and dealing with this debilitating disease.

This also came to light in a wonderful blog talk radio show I did with Susan J Sohn, talking about my journey through depression, you can listen to the 1 hour interview HERE.  An open, honest and real conversation about the reality of mental illness, Susan also shared her challenges with supporting a friend through depression, and asked some fantastic questions on how we can support loved ones.

How Can You Provide Support for a Loved One with Mental Illness?

Ask your loved one what you can do to help them – they may not be able to give you a straight answer, however, by you asking it let’s them know you care.  They are more than likely feeling alone, desperate, isolated, frustrated, overwhelmed and helpless. Your unconditional and loving support will not fix them, however it will definitely help!

Seek Professional Help:

Accompany your loved one to a Doctors Visit: encourage them to be completely honest with their Doctor on how they are feeling.


Unconditional Love, Acceptance & Compassion:

A large part of the stigma that surrounds mental illness is judgement.  The majority of people won’t open up about where they are at in fear of being judged.  The biggest gift you can give your loved one is acceptance & compassion, refrain from using terms such as “Just snap out of it”, “you’ve got so much good in your life how can you be depressed?” believe me – I wish I could have “snapped out of it”


Practice Active Listening:

Allow your loved one to share how they are feeling, and to speak, without any interruption – with full attention and intention to fully hear what they are saying.



Celebrating what may seem something so small to you, can go a long way for your loved one – being trapped in a negative stream of feelings and emotions is normal in mental illness, gently point out small positive steps.


Overcoming Being Overwhelmed:

The simplest of tasks will more than likely cause overwhelm for your loved one, giving them too much information, will cause them to withdraw.  Keep things simple, short and sweet.



As a caregiver you also need support, be willing, ask and be receptive to others giving you the support you need.



Encourage your loved one to create an Emotional Health Plan – their support team: friends and/or family that they trust and have their best interests in mind.  Make sure there is a mix of personal and business support.


There is a full chapter on how to Support a Loved one in my book “A Quiet Strong Voice: A Voice of Hope Amidst Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidal Thoughts.”


This too shall pass, by accepting and providing unconditional support you are helping your loved one.  You will also be more aware and knowledgeable on this disease that affects 350 million people across the world.  Thank you for being there for your loved one, without my support system I would more than likely not be here today.



Mood Disorders Society of Canada – Support for Families and Quick Facts

Distress Centre – 24-hour crisis line – 403.266.4357 (HELP)

International 24 Hour Crisis Lines – International Association for Suicide Prevention

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – Support for Postpartum mood disorder

Worldwide 24 hour Crisis line LISTINGS




Would love to hear from you

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  1. Lee says:

    Thanks so much Kelly, as are YOU

  2. You truly are an angel Lee!

  3. Lee says:

    A friend approached us last week, worried for a friend who was going through a rough time with depression… After chatting on the phone, my intuition said she needs a hug… I followed up with her and her friend today to see how she was over the weekend, and she sent me a beautiful message – and has given permission (excluding her name) for me to share…

    The purpose of sharing this comment on behalf of her is that you never know how being support can impact someone, it also shows the importance of reaching out for help…

    “Thank you so much for what you did for me last week. You truly are an amazing woman and I thank God daily for bringing you into my life. You called just at the right time. I was at my lowest ever and scared and frightened. Believe me when I tell you that you saved my life and for that I will be eternally grateful. What a difference it made to me to be able to pour everything out to you and most of all that you listened. No criticism. No judgement. Just friendship and love. It takes an angel to extend that to a complete stranger as you did.”

    Hugs & Love

  4. Lee says:

    Dear Cindy,

    Thank you, the more we dialogue and speak up, the less people will feel alone and judged. As a society, as individuals, as human beings – together we can make a difference. The I Am Brave website is in it’s final stages of first draft – there will be MUCH dialogue, stories, tools and resources. Thanks so much Cindy for speaking up!

    Much love and hugs

  5. Cindy says:

    Good job opening up the conversation on a subject that is very often ignored. Let’s continue the dialogging. Let’s have more info.

    Much love;



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