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Supporting a Person with Mental Illness

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When someone you care about is struggling with mental illness, you might not know what to say or how to help. You want to be supportive, but you don't want to cross personal boundaries or offend anyone. By educating yourself and practicing empathetic listening, you can learn how best to offer support and encouragement.

The Do's and Don'ts of Emotional Support


  • Ask if they're comfortable talking about their mental and emotional issues.
  • Listen with empathy and respect.
  • Express genuine concern and caring.
  • Ask how they would like to be supported.
  • Ask straightforward questions.
  • Offer to help identify options for treatment.
  • Educate yourself about their illness.
  • Set boundaries for yourself.


  • Accuse them of attention seeking.
  • Pry for information or demand answers to questions they aren't comfortable with answering.
  • Take charge of their recovery or force them to seek treatment.
  • Joke about or invalidate their illness.
  • Give unwarrented advice.
  • Scold or punish them for unhealthy behaviors or shortcomings.
  • Disclose their condition to others without their consent.



The information on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. We do not recommend or endorse any specific tests, mental health providers, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.

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