One in 5 Tennesseans struggles with mental illness, which means even if you aren’t affected, you know someone who is.
1. Look for warning signs
When you think someone may be having a mental health crisis, the most important things to look for are suicidal behaviors or signs of self-harm.
These can include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Talking or writing about death or suicide
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Engaging in risky activities
- Appearing agitated or angry
- Having a dramatic change in mood
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Threatening to hurt oneself
- Seeking access to means to hurt oneself
If you believe a person’s life is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone, and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- If you are worried about the teens in your life, click here.
- To learn more about suicide prevention in Tennessee, click here.
2. Listen without judgment
Listening is a skill, and having a meaningful conversation takes patience and practice. Listening to a person who is struggling with mental illness is a critical step in helping a person feel respected, accepted and heard. Start with an open body posture, keep non-threatening eye contact and try these 5 tips for being a better listener.
3. Offer reassurance
Mental illness and addiction are treatable illnesses, and it’s important to remind people struggling with either that people can and do recover from both. When talking to someone who may have a mental illness or substance abuse issue, respect their feelings, offer them dignity and don’t blame them for their symptoms or actions.
4. Encourage them to seek help
People in crisis need help from professionals who can treat mental illness or addiction. Those professionals include doctors (primary care physicians or psychiatrists), certified peer specialists, social workers, counselors, or other mental health professionals. Treatment can range from therapy to medication, but the most important step is asking a qualified provider for help. Find one here.
5. Foster self-help
People struggling with mental illness can improve their health and wellness in many ways:
- Support groups
- Self-help books
- Engaging with family, friends and social networks
- Going to church or participating in other community-centered activities
All of these activities can be enjoyed with a supportive friend. Pick an activity from the list above — jogging, yoga, joining a book club or taking a class at a community center — and invite your friend or co-worker to join you. Set a specific time and date so the person knows you are making concrete plans that you’ll both be held accountable for. Having something to look forward to can make a big difference.