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5 Ways You Can Support a Loved One or Client with Mental Health Concerns

May 9, 2022

Written by
Sherrie Mohamed, M.Ed, MSW, RSW
Social Worker/Psychotherapist, Interprofessional Primary Care Team (IPPC)


This week was Mental Illness Awareness week. Mental Illness Awareness Week works to de-stigmatize mental health issues and encourage people to support each other and tap into available mental health resources and services.

Here are 5 ways you can support a loved one or a client that has mental health concerns:

1. Normalize their mental health. When a loved one or client says something like, “I haven’t felt like myself lately” or, “I’ve been feeling low/bad about myself” or even, “I’ve lost my motivation to do things that I normally enjoy doing,” please let your loved one or client know that they are not alone and many people are going through the same thing. A quick online search will prove this to be true.

Why this is helpful: Knowing that others are going through the same thing may remove the feeling of isolation and being alone. This may also encourage your client or loved one to reach out and find support.

2. Validate your loved one or client. One of the best techniques you can use to help your loved one or client feel heard is to validate them. Examples of validation statements include:

  • I can see that you feel (upset, sad, angry, scared, etc.);
  • I understand that this is important to you;
  • That seems really frustrating/hard;
  • It makes sense that you are upset about this;
  • That must have been very upsetting for you.

Why this is helpful: Validation statements can help your loved one or client feel like you understand what they are going through. This provides an immediate sense of relief because it reduces the feeling that they are alone in their struggle to overcome.

3. Really listen to what they’re saying by using active listening In conversation with others we are often thinking about what we will say next. Next time you catch yourself doing this, stop and listen instead.
It’s okay if you don’t know what to say next. Don’t pressure yourself to fill any gaps or silence in conversation. The silence is important because it provides an opportunity for the other person to think, feel and reflect. 

Why this is helpful: Giving your client or loved one space to be heard is often what is most needed.

4. Ask what their needs are: It can be easy to fall into a trap of telling people what they need instead of asking. What has worked for you or another client or someone you know, may not be what your loved one or client needs.
Although your loved one and client may ask you for help, they may already have an idea of what they need. Try asking questions like:

  • “What has helped you get through this in the past?”
  • “Do you need anything?”
  • “What can I do to help?”
  • “If you think of anything you may need, let me know how I can help and I’ll do my best.”

Sometimes they may not know what they need and that’s okay too. It’s important to ask instead of assume. If your loved one or client does not know, try a supportive statement like,This statement reinforces that they are not alone and they can turn to you when they are ready.

Why this is helpful: Asking someone what their needs are reinforces their capacity to make decisions and take care of themselves. It can be a validating experience for your loved one or client to realize they have the knowledge and skills for self-care.

5. Encourage them to access mental health services: Lastly, encourage your loved one or client to talk to a mental health professional. Assure your client or loved one that asking for help is a sign of courage and strength and it may help in the long term.

Not sure where to go for mental health services?

Contact 311 and ask for a referral to a mental health service near you
Call one of our clinics to make an appointment