A guide to taking the first steps, making empowered decisions and getting the right support for you.
Many people experiencing a mental health problem will speak to friends and family before they speak to a health professional, so the support you offer can be really valuable. This page covers:
If someone lets you know that they are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, it's common to feel like you don't know what to do or say – but you don't need any special training to show someone you care about them. Often just being there for someone and doing small things can be really valuable. For example:
"I had one friend who helped me by just listening and never judging. Without him my recovery time would have been much longer."
There are lots of practical things you can do to support someone who is ready to seek help. For example:
If you feel that someone you care about is clearly struggling but can't or won't reach out for help, and won't accept any help you offer, it's understandable to feel frustrated, distressed and powerless. But it's important to accept that they are an individual, and that there are always limits to what you can do to support another person.
Lucy from Mind's information team answers one of the hardest questions we get on our helpline, 'Can you make someone get help?'
If someone is experiencing reality in a very different way from people around them, they may not realise or agree that seeking help could be useful for them. They may be experiencing psychosis, mania, hearing voices or feeling very paranoid. In this case, it can also be helpful to:
There are a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to experience psychosis. Lots of people wrongly think that the word 'psychotic' means 'dangerous'. But it's important to remember that in reality, very few people who experience psychosis ever hurt anyone else. (See our page on stigma and misconceptions for more information.)
There may be times when your friend or family member needs to seek help more urgently, such as if they:
Stay with them and help them call 999 for an ambulance, if you feel able to do so. Or you could help them get to A&E. They may appreciate it if you can wait with them until they can see a doctor.
It may also help to remove things they could use to harm themselves, especially if they have mentioned specific things they might use.
You can call 999 and ask for the police to help. You might feel worried about getting someone in trouble, but it's important to put your own safety first.
If you're not in a situation like this right now, but you're worried someone you care about may experience a mental health crisis in the future, it's a good idea to make a crisis plan with them to work out what steps you will take to help them in an emergency. See our page on planning for a crisis for more information.
Supporting someone else can be challenging. Making sure that you look after your own wellbeing can mean that you have the energy, time and distance to help someone else. For example:
This information was published in December 2017. We will revise it in 2020.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.