Each year, more than 43 million American adults experience mental illness—that’s one in five. Only about 40% receive treatment each year. You can help change that. For many facing mental illness, taking the first step of asking for help can be difficult. We can work to change that—to break the silence and encourage open and honest communication. Together, we can create a culture of acceptance and support.
Start the conversation
Talking about mental illness can be tough, but it’s important. Silence drives stigma, and stigma can cause people living with mental illness to feel embarrassed or afraid to reach out for help, which can make the road to recovery longer and more painful than it needs to be. People who feel like they need to conceal their mental health challenges are far less likely to seek help. It’s time to talk openly about depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, like we talk about other health conditions like diabetes or asthma.
Talking about mental illness can be hard, whether you’re the one seeking help or offering it, but there are things you can do to make it easier to start the conversation with a friend or family member you’re worried about.
Learn about common mental health challenges
Take time to find out more about common mental health challenges like depression and how they can be treated. Being prepared can make a difference in someone’s life. Find a Mental Health First Aid class near you to get started. Organizations like Kaiser Permanente and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also have information online. NAMI has local chapters across the country, including Metro Baltimore, with no-cost resources.
Help them get help
It’s important to encourage people in need to reach out to a doctor or therapist for more help, and you can offer to help them do so if you think it’s appropriate. While you will continue to listen and support them, it’s important to ensure that they get help from a professional. NAMI and other organizations can help you find professionals near you. Don’t forget to get help for yourself, if needed. Caring for a loved one who is experiencing a mental health condition can be stressful and many caregivers benefit from seeking support for themselves.
Listen with an open mind
When someone tells you they think they need help with mental health, one of the most meaningful things you can do is listen without judgement. Don’t try to give advice—just help them feel heard, understood, and accepted. Remind them that you are there for them, and will support them however you can along this journey.
Check in often with the person you’re supporting. You may want to ask them how they’re doing, invite them to spend time with you, or offer to help with everyday tasks. The important thing is to show up, listen, and show that you care.
For more information on how to help loved ones or get help for yourself, visit Find Your Words, a Kaiser Permanente initiative to reduce the stigma and start conversations about mental health.