How to Support a Loved One's Mental Health

By Brendan McLean | May. 22, 2015

In any given year, only 60% of people with a mental illness get mental health care. As a result, family members and caregivers often play a large role in helping and supporting them.

Millions of people have experienced the thoughts and questions you might be having now. You may be trying to help a family member who doesn't have access to care or doesn't want help. Or you may want to learn how to support and encourage someone who has been hospitalized or experienced a similar mental health crisis. Take a look at this infographic we developed with our friends at HealthCentral for some ideas on how to support a loved one

How to Support a Loved One infograph

I have a 25 year old son that shows signs of depresion and it gets worse evreyday. He will not seek help - how do I get him the help that he needs before its to late.
6/27/2016 9:54:22 AM

Our son age 27 has been struggling with severe anxiety and severe OCD since he was 7 Has seen many doctors and is presently on 5 medications which still are not helping him. There has not been one psychiatrist who has got his meds right to stabilized him. Now that he is no longer is on my health plan, to get help to monitor his medications or find a psychiatrist and psychologist has been a nightmare. He has to wait weeks to try to see a Doctor through those community centers. Catholic Charities etc. He struggles so much and has days where he is crying out for help. He has never denied he has mental illness. He can't get relief or get a doctor who can help figure out the medication that is right for him. It gets so bad he ends up using drugs so not to feel it anymore. Creating a vicious cycle. I lost my confidence in Psychiatrists and medications. How could they charge 200 to 300 dollars a half hour session and expect someone who needs help and can't even function to work enough to pay that kind of fees. They really don't care about helping individuals with mental health. I also feel they tend to overmedicate and too many meds can make the issues worse or cause the same symptoms. Aren't there any good psychiatrists out there?
6/9/2016 11:46:55 PM

Thea Gibson
I have a 27 year old grandson that does not acknowledge that he has a mental illness and I am having so many problems he sits all day he does not do anything but watch wrestling all day all night unless he sleeps or eat if he doesn't eat he gets very combative and angryhe also blames me for raising him wrong I don't know what to do he's lost both parents to violent crimes which was at least 20 years ago I don't know it just all of a sudden happened in his early twenties
5/26/2016 1:33:40 AM

Estella Valley
Need help for my niece she is an adult and we have reason to believe that she is schizophrenic we can't get her in a hospital she refused to go and because she is an adult the law said that we can't force her she is a danger to herself she is also homeless what can we do?
4/29/2016 2:29:25 PM

My son is 40 yrs old, cant hold a job has been in and out of trouble since he was 17. He was diagnosed with bipolar & he says his not will not take the meds. and refuses to go back. He has 5 kids that range from 21 to 14. He blames everything on me, but I'm the one who has supported him and his family all these yrs. I told him I couldn't pay his electric bill and buy his groceries anymore, now he is refusing to eat. I just don't know what to do anymore.
2/5/2016 7:14:49 PM

Sarah Simonson
How do I get treatment when it's not in my area? I need more treatment for my Borderline Personality Disorder but my baby also needs me..... where, if I could ever afford it - which I cant, where could I go and take my child with me? I do not want to leave her, but I also want to be better for her. I feel like that percent that falls through the cracks. I feel like I have looked into every Avenue and everything I can in my power do. I'm a middle class, first time mom, and I feel as though I'm scared I'm never going to get better.
11/21/2015 8:17:13 PM

I have a 24-year old son who is certain that there is nothing that can help and that his life can never improve. He says he wakes up every day and wishes he was dead. He refuses medical help and counseling. Is there anything at all I can do to help him?
7/3/2015 1:54:48 AM

Dodie Melvin
When family members are struggling with a loved one's mental/emotional instability they are looking for some concrete steps to take. The above is OK, but far too general, in my opinion. What we need is a plan. NAMI Family to Family is awesome, but not all are able to take it.
6/10/2015 12:12:31 PM

I do really believe that Recovery is possible and it often looks different for each individual. When you find hope when you have dreams again, when your symptoms start to improve and you begin to smile again and find joy in life..I believe that you are in recovery.
6/10/2015 1:39:16 AM

Johanna, you are right,it is about coping. It is about calling it what it is - mental illness - it is about seeking appropriate, quality professional help for the one with mental illness and the caregiver. Mental health is a far too wide umbrella term and does nothing to bring attention to the illness from which our loved ones are suffering. What if cancer, heart disease, or diabetes patients were forced to use a terms that do not adequately describe their illnesses. Society used to discriminate against folks with intellectual disabilities until their advocates demanded better treatment from society. In my opinion the problem is that our NAMI advocates are no longer a grass roots organization. NAMI is run by the pharmaceuticals and mental health industry. They do not care about our loved ones as we do - bottom line. Yes, NAMI has helped but after 35 plus years - not nearly enough. We need to take NAMI back and really advocate. Stop being afraid to call it what it is.
6/8/2015 1:33:16 PM

Johanna Ash
Please post me as someone who doesn't like the way mental illness is addressed in this article. I have many people in my family, across three generations who are being followed with therapy and medicine for bipolar and others with depression. There are those of us self medicating with alcohol.. This article implies that recovery is possible. There is no recovery. There is coping after a diagnosis and treatment. Even so, there are set backs and then movement back towards a normal life. There aren't cures, there is no lasting recovery. There needs to be an acceptance of disorder, and an acceptance of limitations. Care for the supporting people is crucial. Recognition of ongoing drama is crucial. Faith in a higher power is crucial.
6/6/2015 7:06:03 PM

I want to share with caregivers what a therapist said to me at a very low point of helping my 13- now 15-year old daughter with severe depression, anxiety, cutting, suicidal thoughts: "You are doing the best you can" she said. I really needed to hear it.
6/2/2015 9:37:53 PM

mary lou
My daughter is 23 years old and has lived with mental illness most of her life....just a few short months ago my whole world was falling apart as my baby fell apart-she lost her relationship with her children's father, she lost her job, she lost her car, she lost her sons (she did have sense enough to give me her boys while she struggled with what became a life or death struggle), and finally lost her apartment. She and her family live with me now and she is actively seeking improvement in her mental health...I have hope that she will learn to be healthy and safe for the rest of her that she and her family may enjoy a wonderful quality of life...I know that having a supportive family network without judgment and criticism is essential for recovery and/or betterment of the quality of life for those dealing with mental health issues....this was a great article!
6/1/2015 2:49:26 PM

Susana Brady
I am a Nami member, but I retired and live now in Argentina, where is nothing like NAMI. My daughter, 43, has a Personality Disorder, Borderline, she is under treatment, but she has those terribles tantrums that we have to live with with her son and daughter. They live in my house, and felt isolated and frustrated. I am 72, and don´t want to livein this chaos anymore.
5/31/2015 11:00:11 AM

roberta ochs
Have a boyfriend with Bipolar 2 depression that has withdrawn and isolated himself. Not sure what to do
5/31/2015 3:36:57 AM

Our son age 46, has struggled through eight years of depression, was self employed, lost his business, his wife, and his family, it has been a very difficult journey. However, we have learned a lot along the way that we would never have learned otherwise. He is now able to work again, has a wonderful new lady friend and a better relationship with his sons than before. It all worked out for the best.
5/30/2015 6:33:04 PM

Maria Ramirez-Kroger
when is national nami conference?
5/30/2015 5:15:48 PM

Maria Ramirez-Kroger
My son has a mental illness and we need to learn more about it an he needs more help besides the medications.
5/30/2015 5:14:09 PM

My husband is Biopolar. Sometimes I just want to leave. It is so hard to be married to someone with medication resistant depression. Depression is a very self centered disease.
5/30/2015 4:53:26 PM

I can only view the left hand side of the article in this email (using Android phone with Firefox browser). I also went to Health Central website and searched for article, but could not find it.
5/30/2015 9:02:16 AM

I am the mother of a 25 year old son who has Delusional Disorder. He had a psychotic break 3 years ago and since then has believed he is Jesus. He has absolutely no insight that he is sick. He does take his medicine and is stable for the most part. This has really taken a toll on our family, hoping to get some advice from another family that might be dealing with something similar.
5/29/2015 8:12:11 PM

Lost my true love
My wife has an unfair understanding of her condition. She has left me, purchased her own home, left me and our business, two homes. She blames me for her condition. I love my wife, I want her to grow old with me. She wants to be alone.

Any help would be welcomed.
5/29/2015 8:01:35 PM

Betsy Rasmussen
I have spent the last 45 years working with the mentally ill. Most of the time I was a RN. I just retired. I would do anything to help stop the stigma. People do get better with the right treatment. My question is how can I help?
5/29/2015 2:05:20 PM

Thank You NAMI...your support is outstanding. My loved is suffering from Depression and it affects the whole family. He refuses treatment but we the rest of us are in therapy to try to figure out ways to convince him to see someone about it.
5/29/2015 8:39:11 AM

Janet Capella
Yes, I am 66 recently diagnosed, attending NAMI group, struggling myself & family, friends. My 22 yr grandson has homeless, jail, self medication, diagnosis schzophr, issues, much crisis with his mom & family. I am looking for info and paths to understand, treatments, tools.
5/29/2015 12:54:55 AM

Thank you for your support
5/29/2015 12:40:10 AM

How do we get our hands on this? I would love to get it printed for our affiliates, events, and other outreach efforts.

Thank you,
Jamie Justice
Executive Director
5/28/2015 6:48:51 PM

jay ellen prague
keep her away from rx. meds
5/28/2015 4:54:46 PM

I have family living with mental illness. Always want to be more supportive to them. Interested in blog.
5/28/2015 3:24:19 PM

Terrific infographics! Thank you NAMI.
5/28/2015 3:10:06 PM

Keep Praying it reduces the stress & anxiety! Listen to lots of positive & encouraging music/ K-Love etc .be proactive and encourage your support system to also be proactive to seeking help. Keep things simple & keep the trigger of stress down.. I will pray for all!
5/28/2015 2:54:55 PM

Jo Ann
I have a 44 yr. old daughter who refuses to admit she has any form of mental illness. I tried a Professional Intervention, which was not successful. My husband & I completely support her financially, as she refuses to apply for any assistance. We're in our 70's, live on small pensions, & Social Security. We cannot continue totally supporting her, yet we don't know what to do to help her. She lives in another state, & when we speak on the phone, she becomes very verbally abusive! It's affecting my physical health (just diagnosed with Pancreatitis), as well as my emotional health. I see a therapist who advises me to 'let go' of the situation, because I'm not really helping her, in the long run. I find this difficult to do, as I love her very much, & it breaks my heart to see her struggle. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
5/28/2015 12:42:06 PM

julie keady
My daughter 30 years old is diagnosed with bipolar disorder with dual diagnosis. She does not take her meds prescribed but would rather drink. She believes that these psych meds has made her gain a lot of weight. She is not even take contraceptive pills. She's been pregnant before and have to give the baby up for adoption. She is so mentally ill that unless she takes some meds, there is no way to talk to her of what she wants to do with her life. She lives with her father who is also alcoholic. So they are not helping each other. I have decided to separate them first and go on to the next step. I am 70 years old. I feel so tired having to deal with this at this age. i am now retired so you can imagine how I joggled my career and problems at home first with my ex husband and then my daughter when she turned 18. I have been on this for for the last 25 years.
5/28/2015 11:57:59 AM

Benjamin JR. Jackson
I believe we all have problems, but deciding not to let those problems get the best of you no matter what people thinks and say, we are doing the best we can, through treatment, the right meds, and support from family and friend we cam make it. We are survivors, and we will overcome.
5/28/2015 11:57:05 AM

julie keady
My daughter 30 years old is diagnosed with bipolar disorder with dual diagnosis. She does not take her meds prescribed but would rather drink. She believes that these psych meds has made her gain a lot of weight. She is not even take contraceptive pills. She's been pregnant before and have to give the baby up for adoption. She is so mentally ill that unless she takes some meds, there is no way to talk to her of what she wants to do with her life. She lives with her father who is also alcoholic. So they are not helping each other. I have decided to separate them first and go on to the next step. I am 70 years old. I feel so tired having to deal with this at this age. i am now retired so you can imagine how I joggled my career and problems at home first with my ex husband and then my daughter when she turned 18. I have been on this for for the last 25 years.
5/28/2015 11:56:49 AM

Myrna Thayne
Our adult 42 yr. old son has been experiencing mental health problems since a 1 car accident in 2007, when he wanted to experience driving into a tree. Our lives have never been the same.
5/28/2015 11:40:12 AM

Never, ever, ever give up!! You are not alone.
5/28/2015 11:14:44 AM

Mental illness is a horrible name for emtional instability. I wish we could change it to something else because it has such a stigma attached to it that it makes it hard for me to accept myself sometimes. I have lived my most of my life dealing with PTSD and all the complicated emotions and brain activity that goes along with it. I propose we give this generalized term another name.
5/28/2015 10:53:01 AM

I struggle everyday with shame for how I let my mental illness define me. It makes me sad when those around me judge me before knowing the truth....its not the 1800's anymore. I'm truly a good person with a disease.
5/28/2015 10:37:13 AM

what should I do bc it stresses me out and I often get overwhelmed.
5/28/2015 9:48:09 AM

I live with a partner who has severe mood swings and , trust and anger issues who refuses to take medications... they see a therapist . But doesn't use the coping skills suggested.
5/28/2015 9:47:17 AM

After losing my husband to suicide, I am franticly trying to help my 21 year old daughter who most likely inherited Bipolar Disorder, but REFUSES to get help. The nightmare of mental illness is relentless.
5/28/2015 9:37:03 AM

I want to hear about your story Shakina and how you have been living your life and raising children.
5/28/2015 9:20:34 AM

Pat Constant
Here we go again -- NAMI again focuses on the term mental health. It's about mental illness! If you want to stop the stigma then have the balls to call it what it is.
5/28/2015 9:12:49 AM

Joanne Govan
I am working on giving my son the support that he needs he has been compliant with his therapeutic regiment for 1 year and 6 months. He still has days that he is manic on those days given myself permission to engage him or not. Being a social work has been both a help and a hindrance. I take time daily for self. I hope what I shared helps someone else. I forgot to mention my son is 33.
5/28/2015 8:31:03 AM

Barbara Baracosa
I have a mother and daughter along with myself who suffer with depression. We shave been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Just interested in hearing what others have to say.
5/28/2015 8:24:30 AM

I really appreciate what is posted. I see there are updates to the statistics of teenagers and children with a mental illness and this stands out to me because my child is 16 and dealing with mood swings. I would like to see the stats on the likelihood of genetic predisposition of a mental illness running in families. For example, I learned in peer to peer that if both parents have bipolar disorder there is a approximately 65% chance the child may have bipolar disorder. Scary but a possibility. I look forward to becoming apart of this NAMI blog. I believe it is so important we have a community of those all over the world to share our thoughts, experiences and provide overall support! NAMI keep doing what you are doing because you are saving my life and the life of so many others.
5/28/2015 8:18:10 AM

I have a daughter 17 struggling with mental illness. She was diagnosed 2 years. I would like to join this blog to hear other stories and get advice.
5/28/2015 8:17:28 AM

Marie Sheehan
We reached out for help from police, mental health facility and my Son's doctor but no one could section 12 him and just keep telling us to call 911. The next night he ended up arrested and is now awaiting sentencing in jail with no medication for the last two weeks. It is deplorable how our system treats these young adults. My Husband and I feel so alone.
5/28/2015 7:54:40 AM

Lynne Jenkins
Its difficult to watch my 28 year old struggle with mental illness, wants help in that area. Its so difficult to see the man he is today compared to just 10 years ago. Very hard to understand. Nami has been my lifesaver and has given me many avenues and help during difficult time.
Mukhtar I strongly advise you to get in a Nami family to family group they have gone through this and can help you.
5/28/2015 7:15:41 AM

Please subscribe me to the blog. Thank you.
5/28/2015 7:11:56 AM

Danny J
I have a sister who seems to be very bi-polar and I have watched over time as she has withdrawn from friends, actively avoided treatment, has episodes of violent anger, bizarre reactions and deep depression. I am sad to see her destroying her marriage, a promising professional career, and push those who try to help out of her life. How can we help her? She doesn't seem to think she needs any help yet friends and family watch as she spirals deeper and deeper into "I'm fine, but everyone else in the world is the cause of my problems". Sometimes she is downright scary to be around. Suggestions? Solutions?
5/28/2015 4:26:01 AM

Melinda Cohen
I would like to commend the person(s) who put this email together--it is very helpful and offers truly helpful/useful advice. Having lived thru a 10 year experience with the challenges and heartbreak of a loved one struggling with severe bipolar disorder, the chart you offer is excellent. Thank you! My family member is now doing very well and I am so grateful. If someone is reading this who is struggling, please take my advice and NEVER GIVE UP HOPE that your loved one can get better and have a better life--they can and they will if you assist them and take care of yourself, too. It is not easy. Hang tough. Learn everything you can about the "ENEMY"--your loved one's disease. Only then can you start moving forward.
M.C. - Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
5/28/2015 12:38:11 AM

Gina gaviglio
Have a 30 year old son with mental health issues and blames his friends and family for the trouble in his life
5/28/2015 12:08:23 AM

I have a son who is in his late 30's and is struggling with bi-polar depression. I struggle to help him. I need to find a way to help without intruding too much. I am his only family support.
5/27/2015 11:25:53 PM

Family members need to know this. I am one of the people who's family members did not understand and left me on my own. Thanks to NAMI, I am a different person.
5/27/2015 11:23:08 PM

yvette kidd
I need support to help out with my grandkids as they are going through their changes in life and I feel that it matters because I do not want them to get side tracked as they grow alone the way I feel that joining this program as a lift for higher grounds to procede to a normal lifestyle I BELIVE this is and good I deal the more I learn how to interact on their behaviors the better our household will substain.
5/27/2015 10:37:44 PM

Laura Schiller
I have recovered from mental illness and would like to be of help to others.
5/27/2015 10:20:11 PM

Dean Traweek
Would like to keep learning about my illness and about what others are dealing with.
5/27/2015 9:35:51 PM

Anita Johnson
Hi just continue to show your family member, friend love and stay in prayer for them and yourself. Trust God and He will take care of everything.
5/27/2015 9:32:19 PM

Jeanne Fetner
I was diagnosed with bipolar depression at the age of 50. I am now 52 and and still haven't had an opportunity to talk about my story. Everyone just wants to medicate and not communicate.
5/27/2015 9:30:28 PM

Lucy Paulsen
Check in your area to see if there is a local NAMI support group. They have a support group for the family member with the mental illness and another group for the other family members to discuss issues or problems and the group interacts and gives support to each other and tell how they have dealt with same or similar problems. It is similar to an AA or Al-Anon group. There is one in Mankato, MN and I know they have them in Minneapolis, MN too. They are located all over the US I believe.
5/27/2015 9:29:27 PM

I want to make sure I'm on the right track. I've learned many things about mental illnesses. I've had MDD since I was a young girl and recently, it was determined that I'm a Narcissistic Abuse Survivor.
5/27/2015 9:25:28 PM

My son has been in jail for almost two years. He has been receiving prescribed meds and not self-medicating, so we can actually have a civil and intelligent conversation. He will probably be released soon, and I am struggling to figure out just how to help him transition back into society and stay away from drugs and old "friends." I wish there was a program he could go to, a half-way house or something, to help him with this transition. I am open to any and all ideas!!
5/27/2015 9:15:47 PM

what if the family support are the ones making it hard for someone to survive?
5/27/2015 9:02:28 PM

Rebecca Corlew
I have a daughter diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.
After years of turmoil she is doing pretty good and has been on meds now for 10 yrs. She has a job and is looking to get back her drivers license.
We are not exactly a success story but my daughter is functioning and each year she grows with family support
5/27/2015 9:02:26 PM

Look on the NAMI website for a support group near you. I have been going and it so helpful
5/27/2015 8:59:54 PM

I want to make sure I'm on the right track. I've learned many things about mental illnesses. I've had MDD since I was a young girl and recently, it was determined that I'm a Narcissistic Abuse Survivor.
5/27/2015 8:34:00 PM

michelle decker
I am 43 and have been fighting the mental illness battle since the age of 17 and it gets worse with age. I find myself having more symptoms and melt downs the older I get. I know my family loves me but they don't know what to say so I hold it in.
5/27/2015 8:25:23 PM

My daughter has severe OCD and depression. But now she's at a point she doesn't want any more therapy or meds because she says nothing is wrong with her. Now she's dealing with an eating disorder. I'm about to lose my mind.
5/27/2015 8:12:07 PM

What support is available for those family members who are abused by the person with mental illness? Sometimes, they need recovery, too! (Yes, I realize it is taboo, but people with mental illness are still people. Some of them are bullies through and through. They just happened to get sick.)
5/27/2015 8:04:59 PM

nice blog
5/27/2015 7:15:43 PM

Mercedes Khan
I have a brother who just turned 39 May 16th and suffers with schizophrenia since he was 19 years old. He's been living with my elderly parents every since and every year it gets worse and worse. It's very difficult to get him to comply with wanting to get help or to even speak with a Dr or therapist of some sort. My mother suffers from bad asthma and takes care of my sick father 24/7, so it is very hard on her to deal with such problems. I am married and have an almost 3 yo son and am also dealing with problems within my own family aside from the medical issues my parents and brother go through. So what I am really asking is what can I do for my brother so that he gets proper help and convincing him?
5/27/2015 4:12:48 PM

Bonnie Rice
Be careful of how and where you share your story when you have young children. I wrote a book about living with my husband with bipolar when my children were teens, but didn't distribute it locally until they were out of school. Your story might help others, but you don't want their schoolmates to read it--it could become an excuse to bully your children.
5/27/2015 3:15:34 PM

Mukhtar, find the nearest NAMI support group. to find the nearest support go to
5/26/2015 8:49:13 PM

Mukhtar Ahmad
need advice to help loved one with mental illnesses
5/25/2015 7:27:51 PM

Marie Osterheld
I think I like to join with this blog.
5/24/2015 4:17:18 PM

I struggle every day and need all the support I can get!
5/23/2015 8:02:15 PM

shakina d Lawton
I am about to turn 43 I've been struggling since I was 17 with depression and at about 22 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I want to tell my story. How it is at my age, the fact that I have 2 daughters and 1 was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder as well, she's only14. I think my story of the things that has happened to me needs to be told. My email address is
5/23/2015 11:48:21 AM

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