6 Ways You Can Help a Loved One on Their Healing Journey

DEC. 26, 2019

By Shainna Ali



Take a moment to consider all the people in your life: your coworkers, friends, family. At any given time, 1 in 5 of these individuals is living with a mental health condition. You may have noticed them struggling, but if you’re not a trained mental health professional, you may not have known how to help.

However, you can help. You can be supportive and encouraging during their mental health journey. Here are a few tips on supporting the mental health of those you love.

1) Educate Yourself

There are hundreds of mental health concerns; your job is not to become an expert in all of them. When you do notice potentially troublesome symptoms, it’s helpful to determine if those signs may indicate a mental illness. Familiarizing yourself with common symptoms can help you understand and convey your worries. You may also benefit from expanding your knowledge by taking a course or joining a support group of individuals who can relate to the hardships you and your loved one may be facing.

2) Remain Calm

Recognizing that a loved one might need help can be daunting, but try to remain calm—impulsively approaching the individual might make you seem insensitive or aggressive. Try to be mindful and patient. Take time to consider your loved one’s symptoms and your relationship before acting. Writing down how you feel and what you want to say may be useful to help you recognize and understand your thoughts and feelings, and help you slow down while connecting to your good intentions.

3) Be Respectful and Patient

Before talking to someone about their mental health, reflect on your intention to promote healing and keep that in mind. Ask how you can help in their recovery process and be cautious not to come off as controlling. While encouraging a person to seek help is okay, it is not appropriate to demand it of them. Let them know that if they ever wish to talk in the future, you’re available.

4) Listen

Give your loved one the gift of having someone who cares about their unique experience. Don’t bypass their narrative by making connections to others’ experiences. You might recognize a connection to your own experience, however, sharing your story prematurely may undermine their experience. You may be prepared with hotlines, books, or a list of community providers, and although these are excellent sources of support, it’s important to take time to thoroughly listen before giving advice. It’s a privilege to have someone share intimate details of their mental health. Be present and listen before moving forward.

5) Provide Support

One of the best ways to help is to simply ask how. It’s not helpful to try to be someone’s therapist, but you can still help. People don’t like being told what to do—asking how you can help empowers them to take charge of their recovery, while also letting them know you are a source of support.

6) Establish Boundaries

As you support your struggling loved one, it’s important to consider both your boundaries and theirs. When trying to help, you are susceptible to neglecting yourself in the process; boundaries will help you maintain your self-care, while also empowering your loved one. Be sure you’re not working harder than they are at their own healing process.

As a caring person, you may grapple between wanting to encourage and support your loved one while wanting to honor their process and independence. Unfortunately, there are no foolproof guidelines for helping your loved one on their journey towards recovery. However, you can connect to your intentions, convey compassion and maintain your own self-care while empowering your loved one regardless of where they are in their healing journey.


Shainna Ali is a practitioner, educator, and advocate who is dedicated to highlighting the important role of mental health in fostering happiness, fulfillment, and overall wellness. She is a certified counselor and licensed mental health clinician, and the owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions, a clinical and consulting practice in Central Florida. Her areas of focus in research and practice include identity and culture, emotional intelligence, trauma, and creativity in counseling.  For more information on Dr. Ali, please visit IntegratedCounselingSolutions.com

Note: This blog was originally published in March 2018.


We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.


MAR, 23, 2018 06:34:57 AM
Thank you for the article. I got to see where I made mistakes dealing with my sister-in-law's mental illness. I did more for her recovery than her. When I realized I was beating a dead horse in the name of helping my 98 year old mother-in-law who had severe dementia that she was dragging all over from 7am to 9pm I told her, "In order for her to stay in my life, I needed her to get professional help". She barked, "You think you know what's best for everyone". She picked up and left and did not step one foot in my family's house again for 4 years and she died at the age of 66. My family felt instant relief. We had no idea until then how our mental health was impacted by her mental health she was ignoring. It was recently revealed I have mild bipolar, multiple personality disorder. I always knew about anxiety & depression. I am now ready to seek more MH resources to supplement 5 12 step recovery programs.

Thanks for reading.

MAR, 13, 2018 05:01:09 PM
Betty Childress
I like your advice in this article. I have a 50 year old bipolar son and I need guidance on how to help or deal with him.

MAR, 13, 2018 03:27:47 PM
Catherine smirniotis
My daughters suffers from depression and anxiety

MAR, 09, 2018 10:02:56 PM
Need help understanding adult daughter recently diagnosed with mental illness

MAR, 09, 2018 06:07:44 PM
My daughter had hypersensitive hearing; I was a single mom and used to yell when I was frustrated or depressed. Father was absent, my daughter is 33 now. 10 years ago she acquired Lupus started hearing voices telling her to cut. At 26, both hips were replaced due to the cytoxin treatment for the lupus, which developed into Lupus Nephritis. She's become schizophrenic from the dialysis, and psychotic drugs. The past year she now wants to attack me, and says I was abusive and doesn't want to see or talk to me. Such terror, I never knew about. She also developed an eating disorder because I was always exhausted while cooking for her and her sister, she said I hated her cause I had to cook.

MAR, 07, 2018 04:09:13 PM
James Stordahl
#amazon #bipolardad #scatterbrain #straggler www.bipolardad.podbean.com

MAR, 06, 2018 06:30:00 PM
Susan Olson
My General Practitioner needs to read this....or my soon to be former GP😁

MAR, 05, 2018 09:08:17 AM
Virginia Porlier
Hi I'm new

MAR, 03, 2018 05:55:15 PM
I have 31 years old veterance, he stay with ever since, when he come home from the military he was completely changed, I feel and see that behavior was putting out of my families tearing apart, I'm trying to be a practical mother helping him as much us I can that a worried mother I can be, he stay home since then, i know he has mental issue, I'm trying to asked some help from the veterance but they only advices me that I have to bring him at the VA hospital for check, honestly it's too impossible for me how could I even do to bring him to the VA every time he see me or people insude our house he run , hide or if he don't have a chance to hide he over reacted with so many different actions that's is not acceptable for me , I'm 64 years work 6 days a week, to shelter for my children but still it's unfair for me and everything, please I needed so help with this kind of my situations..

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.