When A Close Friend Has A Mental Illness

Suggestions for coping more effectively when someone close to you has a mental illness.

Supporting Someone with Bipolar - For Family and Friends

Suggestions for coping more effectively when someone close to you has a mental illness.A friend of a person experiencing a mental illness may encounter common difficulties. Although situations differ, there are basic suggestions to help to facilitate a smoother adjustment.

  • Understand that behavior may change from day to day.
  • Learn as much as you can about the illness from mental health professionals.
  • Encourage the person to keep appointments with mental health professionals and to take medications as prescribed. This will help in stabilizing the illness.
  • Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and "street" drugs. These substances may interfere with the effectiveness of medications.
  • Be open and direct with the person when talking about the illness or treatment. Don't keep secrets.
  • Be a good listener. Open communication is good for everyone.
  • Do not be frightened by or hide the fact that someone you care for is mentally ill.
  • Be clear and firm that lying and violence are not acceptable ways to get needs met.
  • Remember that improvement takes time and may not be easy to see on a day-to-day basis.
  • Treat the person as an adult.
  • Avoid words like "never" and "always" when the person repeats past mistakes. Be positive.
  • Realize that criticism usually makes things more difficult
  • Remember that everyone makes mistakes.
  • Expect adult behavior and encourage self-reliance.
  • Point out with pleasure the small tings that the person does well.
  • Say clearly what you want from the person. Remember to be understanding.
  • Suggest to the person that personal appearance is important. Offer help if necessary.
  • Keep your promises so the person knows you can be counted on.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat, sleep, exercise and play. Consider joining a support group.
  • Relax and do your best. Avoid worrying that what you do will make the person worse.

next: Bipolar Disorder: Is It Ignored?
~ bipolar disorder library
~ all bipolar disorder articles

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 28). When A Close Friend Has A Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Last Updated: April 7, 2017

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

More Info