How to encourage someone in mental distress to seek help

If you know a friend who’s depressed or distressed, offer your support. (Rawpixel pic)

If you happen to know an individual who is down in the dumps and needs help, it could be tough persuading them to seek professional help especially if it concerns their fragile mental state.

However, mental health issues impact one in four adults and hence, they are not alone. Although therapeutic and other treatments have been fairly popular, less than one-third of patients actually seek assistance.

So, if your loved one is in mental despair and in your opinion needs help, the following tips could prove vital in convincing them to seek the professional treatment they need.

Offer your support

Many misconceptions about mental health exist in society, and often seeking treatment from a psychiatrist or other mental health professional is considered taboo.

So if you know of someone who can be helped, the best thing is to be supportive and avoid making disgraceful or derogatory remarks.

Help the individual in distress understand that their situation is purely normal and that you are there to offer support. But approach them cautiously and in a way that their self-esteem remains intact.

Even celebrities have their fair share of mental health issues and have emphasised on the need to have supportive family and friends.

Consider time and place

The right time and the right place are important factors to consider before initiating a conversation with someone about the state of their mental health.

Avoid bringing up the issue if the individual is surrounded by other people. It’s important to respect their privacy.

Similarly, it might not be a good idea to openly offer sympathy or start counselling someone about a mental issue when the individual is not ready because they will tune you out.

Face resistance cordially

If the individual is not in the right frame of mind to have a conversation or refuses to acknowledge there is an issue, face it with resilience.

Use your relationship with the individual to show them how much you care.

Another approach is to highlight their positive qualities so they are more willing to open up.

Avoid judgemental behaviour as it will only make the distressed individual feel more alone. (Rawpixel pic)

Avoid judgemental behaviour

Passing judgement is the most counterproductive practice whether you do it intentionally or unintentionally.

When you judge someone or point out negative aspects of their behaviour, they may cease to feel any connection with you.

Try to be more empathic and use a more flattering approach instead.

If they get defensive, you have to be a step ahead of them and gently let them know there is something seriously wrong that requires they seek treatment.

Learn about the condition first

Do your homework and show the individual concerned a list of symptoms that are well researched and more or less identical to their situation.

You can also share your positive experience with mental therapy or if you do not have a personal experience, refer the individual to someone who has.

Be tolerant

It is important to be tolerant of someone who is in mental distress and is unwilling to seek help.

Understand that the process of feeling confident enough to open up is a long and tough one.

Once they have agreed to seek help, the second step is finding the right consultant or professional that can address their specific needs.

Understand your limits

It is important to acknowledge and define your limits and role because at the end of the day you are not a medical professional or health expert.

If you realise the problem is too serious or could lead to a medical emergency, then your utmost priority should be to take action to ensure the individual’s safety.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the world’s first blog psychologist and founder of Psychreg. As an international mental health advocate, he speaks at various conferences around the world and believes that everyone experiencing a mental health problem deserves both support and respect.