Helping A Friend Face Mental Health Issues: The Delicate Art Of Intervention

While the word "intervention" may conjure images of someone being faced with a number of well-wishing, but overbearing friends and family, there are actually a number of ways to approach this delicate method of helping someone get help for an issue. Although the process isn't easy for the target of any type of intervention, it's also difficult for those trying to step in and help. No matter how tough it seems, though, doing nothing is very likely a far worse scenario. Here's how to proceed in helping someone you care about face and hopefully, address their mental health issues.

Know The Signs That A Person Is Dangerously Overwhelmed By Their Mental State

Just being in a bad mood or failing to adequately handle life doesn't always suggest someone is in trouble, but for people with any kind of mental illness, it could very well be the start. Although you may eventually bounce back from a job loss or failed relationship, to people with mental illness, things can be far mover overwhelming. Learn to recognize the various indicators that something may be seriously troubling your friend and that help is needed:

  • They're experiencing insomnia, which is often connected to mental health.
  • Their appetite has changed.
  • Things aren't going well for them at work and/or home.
  • They've increased their use of alcohol and/or drugs (often an attempt at self-medicating).
  • They may complain of physical pain, experience headaches or seem tired.
  • They're becoming detached to the world around them, physically, emotionally or in many cases, both.

It's easy to brush symptoms aside when you see them in someone else, either because you think it's some normal reaction to their environment or you have difficulty trying to figure out how you can help. If you see more and more symptoms, start writing them down with clarity, indicating dates and noting any unusual or concerning behavior. These notes will help you track your friend's potential issues, as well as provide you with documentation, should the situation escalate.

Know How To Talk To Them About Their Mental Health

Telling someone you think something is "off" with them can be met with immediate rejection; thus, it's best, in most cases, that you not directly accuse someone of having something wrong with them per se and avoid using the term "intervention". Try being a good friend, first, by listening and being available to them. The more you are trusted, the more likely you are to have your advice followed. Talk to your friend, asking them about the specific things in life that may be bothering them, such as:

  • Their place of employment, coworkers and boss.
  • Finances, which can be the source of enormous stress for anyone.
  • Relationships with family, friends and intimate partners.
  • Their physical health, where psychological issues can manifest.
  • Their fears for the future and pains of the past.

By putting pieces together, you might be able to figure out what's going on without directly accusing your friend of having any particular condition. Be alert and sensitive to their situation, while always being on guard for their well-being in consideration of real mental health issues.

Have Specific Solutions In Mind To Suggest

Depending on the level of stress your friend is currently subject to, along with any psychological challenges they face, a few things can be suggested for relief, outside of any hospitalization or psychiatric treatment. For example, if you know they're tense, suggest going for a walk or to yoga class together. If you know they haven't been eating well, offer to whip up something yummy in the kitchen and share a meal. On the other hand, when dealing with more sensitive and potentially serious mental health issues, the intervention should suggest more intense treatment, as warranted:

  • Visiting some type of counselor, either simply to relieve the stress, undergo a more thorough evaluation or to seek specific mental health treatment, like cognitive behavior therapy.
  • Seeking professional guidance in dealing with any type of substance abuse, as that can exacerbate any existing condition, especially stress.
  • Directly checking into some form of rehab or hospitalization, which may mean obtaining a referral from a physician or psychiatrist.

Having a conversation about possible treatments probably won't be easy, as people are inclined to self-protect, denying any problem and initially refusing to seek help for it. Be strong, refer to recent behavior, such as what might be documented in your notes or reflected in your friend's work and relationship status, and encourage them to solve the problem by pointing out that the end-goal is to restore order and happiness, not to judge or lock them away. Sometimes, successful interventions require multiple people and even the involvement of professionals, or you may be able to convince your friend all on your own. The important thing is not so much how it's handled as it is that it's handled. Make sure you're never in danger and that your friend isn't in jeopardy of harming themselves.

Have A Back-Up Plan If They Refuse Help

If you're certain your friend can't handle their state of mental health, seek outside help. Speaking with other friends or close family members may provide you with other resources, but ultimately, facing the issues through professional counseling is likely the best course of action. In order to accomplish that, a psychiatric consult of some kind may be in order and that could be accomplished voluntarily (by your friend) or involuntarily, if needed, by a professional, with the help of police, if needed. Anyone suspected of being potentially harmful to themselves or others can and should be placed in an environment where they get the help they need.

An intervention can be made by many people or just one, but the primary objectives should be to keep the line of communications with a person open, guide them to help if possible and ultimately, get them help in some other way if needed. For more information or assistance, contact establishments like Park Center Inc.