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The Do's and Don'ts of Supporting Someone with a Mental Health Problem:

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Title: How to Support Someone with a Mental Health Problem: Dos and Don'ts

In our journey through life, we often encounter friends, family members, or colleagues who may be dealing with mental health issues. These challenges can be incredibly taxing, not only for the person experiencing them but also for those who care about them. Being a supportive presence in someone's life during these times is vital, but it can be tricky to navigate. In this guide, we'll explore the dos and don'ts of supporting someone with a mental health problem, drawing upon principles of mindfulness, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and compassion.


1. Listen Actively and Non-Judgmentally:

  • Mindfully tune in to their thoughts and feelings.

  • Avoid offering solutions or judgments; sometimes, people just need someone to listen.

2. Educate Yourself:

  • Learn about their specific mental health condition.

  • Understand the treatments, triggers, and coping mechanisms associated with it.

3. Be Patient:

  • Healing takes time; don't rush the process.

  • Offer your support consistently and steadfastly.

4. Respect Their Autonomy:

  • Encourage them to make decisions about their treatment.

  • Avoid imposing your solutions on them.

5. Offer Practical Help:

  • Assist with daily tasks if needed, such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands.

  • Practical support can be immensely comforting during difficult times.

6. Check-in Regularly:

  • Consistently reach out and ask how they are doing.

  • Show genuine concern for their well-being.

7. Promote Self-Care:

  • Encourage healthy habits like exercise, proper nutrition, and sleep.

  • Suggest mindfulness techniques or relaxation exercises.

8. Respect Boundaries:

  • Understand that they might need space at times.

  • Ensure they know you're there when they're ready to connect.

9. Offer Emotional Support:

  • Validate their feelings without judgment.

  • Express empathy and understanding.

10. Help Reduce Stigma:

  • Challenge societal misconceptions about mental health.

  • Promote open conversations and a safe environment for disclosure.


1. Don't Minimize Their Experience:

  • Avoid phrases like "It's not that bad" or "You'll get over it."

  • Everyone's experiences are valid.

2. Don't Offer Unsolicited Advice:

  • Respect their autonomy to make decisions about their treatment.

  • Offering unsolicited advice can be counterproductive.

3. Avoid Making It About You:

  • While you may have had similar experiences, remember that this is their journey.

  • Focus on their needs, not your own.

4. Don't Push Them to "Snap Out of It":

  • Mental health struggles are not a matter of willpower.

  • Encourage patience and understanding instead.

5. Avoid Judgments and Labels:

  • Don't label them or stigmatize their condition.

  • Maintain an open and accepting attitude.

6. Don't Share Their Confidential Information:

  • Respect their privacy and confidentiality.

  • Only discuss their situation with their explicit consent.

7. Don't Force Solutions:

  • Respect their choices regarding therapy and treatment.

  • Your role is to support, not to impose solutions.

8. Avoid Negative Assumptions:

  • Don't assume the worst or catastrophize their situation.

  • Maintain a hopeful outlook.

9. Don't Dismiss Their Emotions:

  • Even if you don't fully understand, acknowledge their feelings.

  • Support their emotional expression.

10. Avoid Avoidance:

  • Don't distance yourself from them because you're unsure how to help. -

  • Being present, even in uncertainty, is meaningful.

Supporting someone with a mental health problem can be challenging, but your presence and empathy can make a world of difference. Remember that each individual's journey is unique, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Be adaptable and open, and always prioritize their well-being.

Ending Stigma, Promoting Mindfulness

In a world that often stigmatizes mental health issues, it's crucial to promote open conversations and understanding. By following the dos and don'ts mentioned above, we can create a more compassionate and mindful society.

Let's work together to break down the barriers surrounding mental health. Remember, you're not alone in this journey, and your support matters.

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