Doctor and patient

Help a loved one with mental health issues

Changes in a loved one’s behavior can sometimes be signs of mental distress. You might notice these changes even if the person struggling with mental illness does not.

If you notice any of these changes in your family member or friend, something may be wrong:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Mood swings
  • More fighting or yelling than usual
  • Not wanting to spend time with friends or do things they usually do
  • Having trouble at work or school or with completing everyday tasks
  • Substance abuse

Millions of Americans struggle with mental illness and/or addiction. This is not something to be ashamed of. I am humbled and inspired by how my work as a psychiatrist helps people live happier and more connected lives.

Dr. P.K. Fonsworth
an addiction psychiatrist with the MLK Community Medical Group

How to talk about your concerns

Only a doctor can determine if your loved one has a mental health illness and recommend treatment. But you can talk to your friend or family member and encourage them to get help. Here’s how you might discuss your concerns:

Find a safe, comfortable place to talk.

Next, ask if you can talk about the issue.

If your loved one says no, ask how you can connect him or her with a trusted person who can help.

If he or she is willing to talk, begin by telling them you have worries.

Ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Some good questions you can start with are:

“What can I help you with?”

“What do you want me to know about what you’re feeling?”

Remind your loved one that you care.

Talk about how treatment can help.

Stop the conversation if your loved one seems confused or angry.
If your loved one is open to it, share a list of community resources where they can get help. Offer to go with them to the first appointment or to gather more information.

Ongoing support

If your friend or family member starts treatment, he or she still needs your support. Continue to invite him or her to do things, and remember to check in. Being kind and encouraging can go a long way.

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