Coaxing Optimum Mental Illness Support from Your Friends
Finding mental illness support by creating a group of friends who will support you can make your journey easier. Even if you’ve consciously chosen your inner circle and they've accepted the invitation to support you, however, your work likely isn’t done. Often, friends and family can offer what they think is supportive behavior but it isn’t really supportive for you. Sometimes these people are unintentionally harmful.
Garnering Optimum Mental Illness Support from Your Friends
Mental Illness Support Starts with an Invitation to Your Mental Health Tribe
Especially if you’ve done the work to refine the group that you want for mental illness support, begin your tribe’s training by acknowledging your relationship. Let that person know how much he means to you. People often don’t experience appreciation on a regular basis, so this will probably be a moving conversation for you both.
Ask if he’d like to be a part of your mental illness support system. This could be a great opportunity to share your mental illness with him if he doesn’t already know about it. Keep in mind that, even though you see this person as very close to you, he doesn’t have to say yes. You need to allow him to freely choose yes or no, and if the choice is no, there isn’t a place for judgment. Simply thank him for considering, then ask for the conversation to stay confidential.
Give Your Friends Concrete Strategies for Your Mental Illness Support
Oftentimes, the response to such an invitation is answered with a question: "If I say yes, what does that look like? What do I need to do?"
You should have specifics at the ready.
When I initially asked my tribe for help, I hadn’t yet discovered most of the pieces of what I call Best Practices of Supporting Morgan. I looked for things that helped even slightly, so my first request of those closest to me was this: please send me something great about your day every day, no matter how small or big. It can be via text, email or voicemail, and please understand that I may not reply.
When the positivity started to roll in, each message gave me a little smile. Not everyone messaged every day, but with a few people involved, I received something daily. Here’s the secret side benefit to this specific practice: the person who’s looking for a particularly positive moment in each day also experiences more happiness.
While that specific practice won’t work for everyone, having something concrete to do gave my friends agency, which also prevented them from simply worrying about me and constantly.
Share What Doesn’t Work for You for the Best Mental Illness Support
Whether or not you have strategies for the best ways to help, you likely have experiences that show you what’s harmful. People often don’t know that their intended helpful actions are actually causing pain; your goal here is not to make them feel guilty for accidentally hurting you, but to give them a clear picture of what doesn’t work so that you can try together to find approaches that do work.
Some examples of what doesn’t work for me include sharing advice (including recommendations for medications, natural approaches, or practices I should take on), asking if I’m okay (if I am, it’s annoying, and if I’m not, I’ll lie and say I am), and telling me it will be okay or that it will pass. When I explained these, friends and family gratefully accepted the information and generally didn’t revert to these behaviors again, opting to look for other helpful practices along the way (and, of course, finding others along the way that didn’t work too).
Overall, this training of your mental illness support tribe will take time and patience on both parts. You will need to have an openness to experimentation in order to develop a bigger arsenal of helpful and unhelpful strategies; you’ll also need understanding because everyone has different ideas of what’s supportive and they’re generally trying to help. Keep in mind, you’re all on the same team with the same end goal.
Meredith, M. (2018, July 8). Coaxing Optimum Mental Illness Support from Your Friends, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, July 14 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2018/7/coaxing-optimum-mental-illness-support-from-your-friends
Author: Morgan Meredith
Great post Morgan. Any mental illness can be a challenging experience; and support from family and friends can help immensely. Sometimes people push away their friends and family, with the fear of being judged or a feeling of not being understood. One shouldn’t shy away from seeking professional help.
Thanks so much, Lily. To add on, sometimes it's the influence of caring friends and family that can even help push someone in the direction of a professional, too.