by MHF guest blogger Caroline Meister
One of the hardest parts about being friends with someone who has one or more mental illnesses is that sometimes, they aren’t aware there is a problem.
Think about it. It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that you are sick, whether you have cancer or depression. There can be a stage of denial, and for some people, that denial lasts their whole lives, especially if they don’t believe there’s an immediate threat. For cancer, that’s a little different, as everyone is aware of how deadly that disease is. However, with a mental illness, that threat often isn’t as clear.
Another factor that contributes to this denial stage is stigma. There is a stigma that surrounds mental health, and don’t try to tell me there isn’t. Suicide is considered a sin by many people, and if your support system believes that, you might try and dismiss your feelings because you don’t feel supported. It is very difficult to try and convince someone that they need help when they don’t think they’re drowning or they refuse to admit it. Or even worse, they don’t believe they deserve it.
As a friend, parent, or teacher, it’s not easy to get someone help if they don’t want it. It can be a rocky road, and if you believe their life is in immediate danger you might have to take a step to get them help without their blessing. Someone who is suffering will not listen unless they are in a state of mind where they want to listen.
I’ve tried to help people who don’t want it, and the fact of the matter is, all your energy will be wasted until they can come to terms with it. Now, I’m not saying you should stop being their friend. It means exactly the opposite. They need you now more than ever. It will be not easy, it will be extremely difficult. They may not be a good friend to you, and often you’ll feel as if your kind words and love are going nowhere, but, persist. You may be the only bright spot they have in their life and the only reason they are still going. Intimidating right? Here are some ways you can help:
- Remind them that you’ll always be there, even if you grow apart in the future. It’s important that they feel like they can count on you, and that you’ll always be a constant in their life.
- Stay positive. People who have a mental illness tend to be negative but don’t let them drag you down. If you stay positive, it might rub off on them!!
- Try to get them involved in a mental health awareness group or club. A lot of times these groups have fun activities to raise awareness and/or funds for their organizations. Not only will you be supporting these groups, but maybe your friend/or loved one will realize they’re not alone.
- If you believe they are in serious danger, do not be afraid to tell a trusted adult or mental health professional, or even call 911. They might be mad at you for the time being, but in the end, they will be grateful.
I hope that this helps! I know it can very difficult to support someone who doesn’t seem to appreciate it. There is one more aspect to keep in mind – one of my counselors once told me, “Caroline, you can’t help other people until you help yourself.”
If you would like to be a guest blogger for the MHF please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have advice on how to talk to someone with a mental illness who refuses to get help please comment below!