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What are the best ways for friends and family to support someone with mental illness?

“Mental illness” covers such a huge array of symptoms that this question is difficult to answer. Mental illness could mean a chronic life destroying condition, or a temporary difficulty in coping with a tragedy, or painful life circumstance. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, NAMI, is an excellent national organization that offers help for family, friends and caregivers along with people suffering from serious mental illness. Many, many online resources are available as well, including information, referrals and chat groups. Supporting anyone going through a rough time requires loving kindness, compassion and a recognition that if the symptoms don’t get better within a couple of weeks, that the issue may require professional help. The most helpful support one can give another who suffers from a mental illness is non judgmental kindness; to see them as separate from their illness, and to not give up on them.  People with mental illness can be very frustrating and trying.  Begin by understanding that the problem is not you.  After helping to arrange for the initial screening, make sure that the patient gets his or her prescribed medicine and gets to scheduled appointments with a mental health specialist.

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