It can be difficult to watch a loved one, child, cousin, or sibling suffer from a mental illness. And it can be even more difficult when you aren’t sure how to help or you don’t understand mental illness in a general sense. So we asked our Instagram community what pieces of advice they would give parents/family members who have no idea where to begin. Read below for their answers.


1. “DO. RESEARCH. Do as much research you can with the intent of better educating yourself (the non-mentally ill party) and NOT to “help educate your struggling family member.” It’s the person without the mental illness that needs to be educated.”

2. “Say, “I’m here, no matter what.”

3. “Encourage openness but don’t push it and REALLY listen when they do talk because it’s not easy.”

4. “Those close to someone with a mental illness have a much better chance of understanding if they educate themselves. That education may need to include understanding their own psychological makeup/behaviors/relationship with the unwell person (particularly if it is a close family member).”

5. “Whatever the person (with a mental illness) says is true for them is the truth for them, however weird it might sound. If they say something is real, then it’s real for them, there’s no use not believing them.”

6. “Even if you don’t fully understand what someone is going through, that is okay. Just lend your unbiased support the best you can, educate yourself, and just be there for them.”

7. “It’s not personal. Nothing you did or didn’t do could possibly have caused this.”

8. “A little effort in understanding on their part could completely change their loved ones life. Support goes a long way and even if you don’t understand at all the attempt to try to is worth a lot in itself. Practice compassion and empathy.”

9. “Something I learned from Shameless [is], “you can’t fix me I’m not broken”. Sometimes it feels like the people in your life want to make you better, but they need to relearn what better means for us. Having a good day doesn’t mean that the illness is gone and having a bad day doesn’t mean they’ve done something wrong. It’s just the weather of the illness. There is no reason or fixing, it’s just riding out the storms to get to the rainbows.”


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