Supporting Someone in Denial About Their Mental Health

May 10, 2021 Nicola Spendlove

Supporting someone in denial about their mental health can be a very delicate situation. A friend of mine is living this reality at present -- her partner is exhibiting clear symptoms of mental illness but is not able to have a conversation about it just yet. Supporting my friend has reminded me of when my brother was also in denial about his mental health before he received a diagnosis. Here are some of the things I learned through that experience. 

Denial of Poor Mental Health Serves a Purpose

Some people always act quickly when something abnormal is happening with their health, but for many of us, there is a period of denial before we ask for help. My theory is that our brain does this to protect us from being overwhelmed or panicked about the idea of a scary diagnosis.

It's very important to respect the process of an individual who is coming to terms with how they're feeling at their own pace. Unless your loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, I would be very reticent to try and force them to face up to their mental health issues before they're ready.

Self-Reflection Is Important

When my brother was in denial about his mental health, I spent a lot of time focusing on him and how he was acting. In hindsight, I wish I'd spent more time reflecting on my behavior and the messages I was inadvertently sending. The way I observed my brother came across as judgmental rather than caring.

Opening up about our mental health is daunting, and we tend to choose very particular people to open up to -- people who are accepting, understanding and calm. I wish I had spent more time fostering those qualities so that my brother might have felt comfortable talking to me sooner.

I think, in retrospect, my brother's situation was a little bit of denial due to panic and a little bit of not feeling he could come and speak to me. Things worked out in the end, but there was a lot of learning to be had on my part. I'm glad that I can pass on this learning to my friend to help her understand what her partner might be going through.

What are your experiences of supporting someone in denial about their mental health? I'd love to read about them in the comments.

APA Reference
Spendlove, N. (2021, May 10). Supporting Someone in Denial About Their Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 18 from

Author: Nicola Spendlove

Find Nicola on Facebook and Instagram.

Sky Lewis
June, 27 2023 at 3:55 pm

I'm trying to find the right words to express that they need help to manage their mental health, but even though there are clear signs they are struggling and their personality has changed, they say, "I'm fine, it's everyone else around me, who need help". What do I say or do?

Leave a reply