How you can support friends and family living with mental illness

Mik Zazon and Gabby Male posing for a picture

May 20, 2022

written with love on

9% of people in the United States get a cold in December, but over 30% experience depression. 

While sneezes are an easy clue to someone getting physically sick, symptoms of mental distress can be overlooked more easily. So let’s figure out what we can do to make life easier for those who experience them!


Because we don’t know what we don’t know, we should have a conversation about mental health with everyone we care for. When we talk about it openly it shows we care, it removes stigmas and it encourages them to reach out when they need help.

mik zazon sitting on the bed, embracing herself

Helping someone going through mental health distress can look like:

  • a heartfelt conversation with a best friend
  • sending memes or relatable TikToks
  • helping them find a therapist or refill medication
  • grocery shopping and restocking their fridge & cabinets
  • holding their hand or hugging them
  • and the list goes on

What your friend or family member needs should be discussed first. Based on your own levels of energy and comfort, you can help them with one or several tasks. Never take on more than you can; ultimately, they are responsible for their own needs. You shouldn’t feel guilty for saying no. 

It’s equally important to respect their ‘no’ when they don’t want your help. Removing agency only deepens mental distress.

Know what symptoms you’re looking for

Most of us know the textbook symptoms for depression and anxiety, but they don’t show up the same in everyone. On top of that, a comorbidity with another disorder (very common in sufferers of mental health issues) can either cloak or exacerbate symptoms.

If your loved one has a disorder you’re unfamiliar with, discuss openly about the symptoms they experience instead of relying on Google. Ultimately, they know best how it affects them and what it may present like.

Be there

Regular check-ins from my best friend help me stay positive.

If you look through my message history with my best friend, you would find both of us asking “How can I support you?” on a regular basis, even if nothing is wrong.

Making this a habit with your closest friends and family shows you’re intentional about being there for them.

Plus, reaching out to help someone else can give you a lil’ serotonin boost as well! 🙂

Take a class

Did you know you can be trained in Mental Health First Aid? Becoming a First Aider is so easy! It requires participation in a Mental Health First Aid training, which is a skills-based training course that teaches participants to identify, understand and respond to mental health and substance use challenges.

“Mental Health First Aid is help for a person experiencing a mental health challenge, mental disorder, or mental health crisis. First aid is given until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.” – National Council for Behavioral Health

Mental Health First Aid USA offers a great way to browse available Mental Health First Aid courses nationwide! It’s an easy process, requires up to 10 hours of your time and it can be done virtually, too!

One of the trainings in my county is offered by ADAMH, and it’s a free training made up of a self-paced introduction, followed by 6 hours of virtual training on Zoom. It covers everything from signs and symptoms of different types of mental disorders, action plans to respond appropriately, as well as self-care for First Aiders. You can join the First Aider waitlist here.

I’m hoping that however you choose to be there for your close ones, you do so while centering their experiences and that you honor yourself and your own needs as well.


Writer, speaker, and creator on a mission is to normalize normal bodies and help women like you feel at home in your own skin.

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  1. […] Take time to surround yourself with people who love and support you. Let them help you navigate life. It’s always a good idea to have a friend by your side. If you want to learn how to support friends with mental illness, check out this blog.  […]

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