Supporting someone with a mental illness - Support
How do I give emotional support to the person I care for?
Offer to listen to the person you are supporting. Listening to someone does not mean you have to say much back to them. Sometimes they may find it helpful to just talk to you about their problems, and to know that you are there to listen.
Do not be afraid to ask them questions about how they are feeling, and listen to their answers. If they are not feeling great, ask if you can do anything to help. Make sure you do not take on too much or that they aren’t overwhelmed.
How do I encourage the person I care for to get treatment?
You might find that the person you are supporting doesn’t want to get treatment. This might be because they:
- do not think they need help and things will get better on their own,
- are so unwell they do not think treatment will work,
- do not understand they are unwell,
- are scared of what will happen to them if they tell their doctor how they feel,
- are worried what other people might think,
- are worried it will affect their job or studies, and
- feel hopeless.
If the person you care for doesn’t want to get help, it can be very frustrating. Nobody can force someone else to get medical treatment unless they are in hospital under the Mental Health Act, or on a ‘community treatment order’.
If you want more information about things you can say to the person you are caring for, to try and get them to see a doctor you can look at our “Persuading someone to speak to their GP” document.
It may help if you offer to go to an appointment with them and support them during that appointment. If they don’t want you to go into the appointment you could offer to wait outside the surgery or in the waiting area.
If someone you care for does not want to get help you could try to:
- talk to them about how they feel,
- ask them why they do not want to get help,
- explain that you are worried because they seem upset, down, stressed or worried and you want to try help them,
- explain what kind of help they could get, and
- offer to help them talk to their doctor or offer to talk to their doctor before their appointment.
If the person you are supporting has delusional or paranoid beliefs, they may feel that other people such as GPs are plotting against them. This is a difficult situation to manage, and is common in psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia. It can make things worse if you try to directly challenge the delusions. This might be by saying trying to explain the doctor is there to help. In the short term you may wish to concentrate on other ways of making sure the person is safe and healthy, and perhaps ask for help from social services.
Some people might refuse to get help even if you try to support them. It is important not to give up and to stay hopeful - it might take a while before they get help.
Need practical advice & info? We can help.
Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays