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How To Help A Friend Or Relative That Has A Mental Illness

How To Help A Friend Or Relative That Has A Mental Illness

By: Dr. Lena Pearlman

I am asked almost daily about how someone can help a friend or relative that has a mental illness. There is no secret recipe or formula for best helping someone with a mental illness. However, the below 10 items are definitely important things to consider and keep in mind when dealing with someone who has a mental illness.

1.) Help them to connect with a top psychiatrist and therapist. There are many doctors and therapists out there, find the best person you can.

2.) Understand that you may not be able to “fix” your family member or friend.

3.) Despite your love, concern and hard work – things may get worse before they get better. Things may not get better at all.

4.) Avoid the stigma. Having a friend or relative with a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

5.) Don’t blame the victim, yourself or others. Blaming someone for a mental illness, is like blaming someone for having cancer or heart disease.

6.) Do your homework. There are many great resources out there for you to better understand the illness and how to best help the individual.

7.) If you are a primary caregiver for the individual, make sure to take care of yourself and get any help that you need. This can be very stressful and exhausting. It is easy to neglect yourself, while caring for another person.

8.) Get help if you believe the individual may be at risk of hurting him/herself or others.

9.) If there are others in your family or friend group, form a team. This will provide more resources and lighten the load of each individual.

10.) You have every right to hate the illness, but be careful not to hate the person. They did not choose to get a mental illness.

More mental health resources can be found at: www.STLmentalhealth.com/resources.


Dr. Lena Pearlman is a licensed therapist and the clinical director of Dr. Lena Pearlman & Associates – a mental health therapy practice in St. Louis, Missouri. The practice provides counseling and therapy for individual, couples and families of all ages. The therapists specialize in stress management, depression, anxiety, anger, relationships, and other mental health related issues. Dr. Lena Pearlman and associates can be reached at: 314-942-1147 or by email at: bryan@stlmentalhealth.com. The office address is: 655 Craig Road, Suite 300, St. Louis, MO 63141.