I recently asked a question on my social media. I offered to do a Q&A type blog post and asked people to let me know what they would like to learn more about or hear more about. A question that came up quite a bit was the following: “How do I support someone with mental health concerns who doesn’t want to support themselves?”
This question alone warrants an entire blog post to itself so here we go.
Recovery begins when someone who is struggling recognizes the symptoms and behaviours they are struggling with and decides to do something about it. It begins when they open up to support and help, and start making a plan to feel better. If someone is not yet at this stage, it can be extremely difficult to support them and to help them cope with the painful feelings they are experiencing.
The two keys to supporting someone who is struggling, under any circumstance, are empathy and accountability. Empathy and compassion are so important to validating someone’s feelings and helping them manage painful emotions and the behaviours that come with them. Accountability is what helps them take responsibility for their recovery and helps them stay on top of what is best for them. When it comes to supporting someone who isn’t ready to accept help, accountability is the thing that may be the hardest to help them with and to encourage.
Here are some reasons someone may not be open to support yet:
· They are not aware of how disruptive their symptoms and behaviours are to their life and their relationships
· They have not yet found the right fit when it comes to working with a psychiatrist and/or psychologist
· They are afraid to acknowledge their struggles because this makes them more real
· They do not know what support and resources are available to them
· Stigma and judgment makes ignore their struggles and hide them from the people around them
· The people in their lives are not supportive and do not make them feel as though they deserve the help and support
· Internal judgment and shame leads them to believe they do not deserve the help and support
No matter the reason, when someone is not open to support, here are some things you can do:
· Remain compassionate and empathetic. Acknowledge how difficult and painful the feelings they are experiencing are.
· Express how much you care for them. Focus your desire to get them help and support on the fact that you do not want to see them suffering.
· When symptoms and behaviours come up that affect you negatively, express calmly and compassionately how it makes you feel and how it affects your life. Becoming aware of their impact on the people in their lives may encourage them to seek help.
· Prepare for a crisis. Be ready with appropriate resources like crisis line phone numbers or mental health crisis team phone numbers. Perhaps have necessary items ready, like what you would take to the hospital if a visit is needed.
· If you have lived through your own mental health experiences, share with them how much professional help and support eased your pain, helped you feel better and be more functional.
· Find resources for them; make it easier to reach out for help by providing them with information on different options or phone numbers/websites, etc.
· If they become open to receiving support, try to help by calling and booking appointments, or doing research on resources and support available.
Supporting someone who is not ready for help can be extremely difficult and frustrating. It can be hard because they are not aware of their effect on the lives of those around them and how disruptive their symptoms and behaviours can be. Accountability is the most difficult part of this because they often do not want to take responsibility for coping with their mental health concerns and finding mechanisms that are healthier for themselves and everyone around them.
In all this, as I always advocate, be compassionate to yourself. Take the time to care for your emotional well being. Setting boundaries may be very important when supporting someone who is not ready for help, and in many cases setting boundaries may be the best way to not only make sure you do not get burned out by their symptoms and behaviours, but also a way to help them ease into accountability and what that looks like with regard to a mental health concern.
This blog post can help you learn how to set healthy boundaries:
The fact that you are looking for tips and advice on how to support someone who isn’t ready for help yet goes to show how much you care for this person. Continue to be compassionate and understanding and use the tips I’ve shared here. The simple fact that you care about them and want to support them will go a long way.