Be Aware: 3 Ways To Support Someone Suffering From Mental Illness

by Gabi Garrett
Universal Pictures

Have you ever felt ashamed about skipping out on a plan or event because of mental illness?

I have.

Would the same apply if you had a health issue, such as a minor headache, instead of mild anxiety or heart palpitations? I'd say, probably not.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety for the past five years, it’s important for me to highlight the stigma that comes along with having mental health issues.

Mental illness has gotten a bad rep in popular culture.

Many shows portray the idea that if you have a mental health issue, you should be locked away from the public.

When Lana was trapped inside the fictional Briarcliff Mental Institution in "American Horror Story" for essentially choosing to be a lesbian, we saw how far the stigmas against mental illness have come, and how far we have to go.

It could be those with mental illness are shown to be locked away because the majority of the public can't handle these issues.

How can we make it more natural to understand mental illness?

Mental illness effects one in five adults.

Picture a classroom of 30 people.

Of this 30, six people are struggling with a common form of mental illness, but probably don't know they're suffering from it.

The most common forms of mental illness include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, eating disorders, impulse control and addiction disorders, personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Mental illness runs in my family.

I struggle with anxiety, and so does my mother, grandfather and grandmother. There are also personality disorders and depression sprinkled throughout my family.

So how can you help someone who is suffering from a mental illness?

Here are a few ways:

1. Try to understand what it is.

Who knows? Maybe you can relate.

Research and understand that these mental illness disorders are very common. Have you ever had anxiety? Have you ever felt low?

You may have suffered in the past, or you could be suffering now. You won't know unless you research.

2. Listen to those who confide in you. Don't just offer solutions.

If someone is confiding in you, he or she likely knows what to do already. This person doesn't need advice.

What he or she needs is a person to lean on.

Use phrases like, “What you’re going through sounds so difficult.” Don't say you understand, because you may, in fact, not understand.

Listening can often be the best way to support others.

3. Speak openly and accept.

When celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence speak about their struggles with mental illness, they provide people with an open forum to be honest about their struggles.

You too, when you open up about your issues, can help people come to terms with what they're going through.

If you suffer from mental illness, speak loud, write often and don't be afraid to talk about it.

By removing your defensive armor, you can soften up your edges and speak out to help those struggling with mental illness.

If you don't suffer, just listen. You may be helping someone more than you think.