Despite an increase in awareness, the world of mental health is still one many of us don’t understand. If it’s not something you’ve experienced, mental health can be a hard thing to get your head around. The worst part is that it’s an invisible illness. Too often, we dismiss symptoms as something the person in question should ‘get over.’ But, it’s not that simple! You may not understand the in’s and out’s, but it’s important to remember that it’s a medical condition. The illness is not something the person can change by adopting a different view. Often, mental illness requires medication, just like any other illness. If you know someone who’s suffering with their mental health, there are things you can do to help.

Recognise the symptoms 

Depending on what stage your friend is at, they may not realize there’s a problem. If mental illness isn’t a subject they’re knowledgeable in, they may be suffering in silence. As a friend, it’s your job to recognise the symptoms. This can be an extremely hard thing to get right. But, if your friend has been acting out of sorts for an extended period, there may be a more serious problem. Research symptoms of bipolar, depression, and other possible conditions. Bear in mind that you might get your diagnosis wrong. It’s best not to suggest what you think the problem is. Instead, take steps to encourage your friend to…

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Visit a doctor

Getting your friend to visit a doctor might not be easy. Especially if they aren’t aware there’s a problem. If you approach the subject wrong, you could cause offense and ostracize your friend further. While broaching the subject, make sure to use sensitive language. Use examples of behavior that has concerned you. Explain why you think a doctor’s visit might be necessary. Make sure not to accuse or get angry. Patience is key. Even if your friend refuses straight away, they might think through what you’ve said and agree later. Once you’ve made your suggestion, you need to let the subject drop. You can be sure your words have had some impact. Even so, your friend needs time to process what you’ve said.

Avoid blame 

It’s easy to blame those suffering from mental illness for their behavior. If it’s not something you’ve been through, it can be hard to understand that it’s not your friend doing these terrible things. Some cases will be worse than others. Depression can cause a person to seem distant, and unable to consider other’s feelings. An illness like bipolar can cause reckless and damaging behavior with little regard for consequences. Your friend may be hard to reach, and distant when you’re with them. Remember that this is a health issue just like any other. You wouldn’t blame them for the way a tumor would make them act, right? Nor should you blame them for what they do when mentally unwell. Anytime you’re losing patience, research the symptoms and remind yourself what your friend is going through.

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