Dear family & friends: How can you be supportive?

I’ve received a lot of questions on how to help their bipolar/depressed/anxious family member or friend cope, and today is the day to let it all out! Last week I mentioned that rapid cycling season is quickly approaching (or has started already) so there’s no better time than to practice and sharpen those skills. I would like to start by saying THANK YOU for reading this and trying to help. But a little forewarning: sometimes trying isn’t enough. For example, saying “I want to help but I just don’t get it.” is obviously not enough.

You are not the helpless victim here so when your bipolar/depressed/anxious family member or friend can’t help you, don’t blame them for being unable to express or explain themselves.

Keep an open mind and expect nothing. It might be a walk in the park or you might be smashing through boulders just to grab their hand. Be honest with yourself – if you’re not up for it, then walk away. I have personally been “there” countless times, where someone “tried” to help and made it a thousand times worse because I was blamed for not helping them understand.

Now if you want to be the caring, supportive, and loving person that you are… here are 5 ways you can shine!

1. Say you’ll be there… and actually be there

It sounds obvious and simple, but life happens. Somehow we’re convinced we can do all ten of our tasks in a day when we usually only complete a third of it. We’re all just human. However, your friend is human too with real and delicate feelings so if you say you’ll call, then call. Throwing out a text to say, “Hey how’s your day going?” can show that you care and make all the difference when they’re feeling like crap.

2. Keep it rated “A” for adult

No one strokes your hair or coddles you when you’ve got a cold so it’s no different when your friend is feeling depressed, anxious, or hypomanic. You don’t need to walk on eggshells or tip toe around questions like, “How are you feeling?” You also don’t need to ask, “How are you feeling?” every hour. It’s annoying. Instead, be cool and just see what they’re up to, what they’re eating, if they’re picking their nose… etc. You get the point, right?

3. Stay low key (for now)

It’s more likely than not that your friend wants to stay at home. Annnd if they’re more on the manic-y side and want to burn off some energy, try not to blow that off at a bar where alcohol is readily available. You can always bring over snacks instead, blast some music, and invite a few friends over. Or offer to cook together at home, binge watch some shows or movies, and go for a short walk together. Fresh air is always a good idea.

4. Spare your advice and just offer an attentive ear

I’ve been in this hot seat where it is sooo tempting to want to relate to your friend’s situation and offer your personal advice but leave it to their therapists and psychiatrists. Everyone’s experiences are unique to them. It might not actually be different from what you’ve been through, but in that moment, it is “special” to them. Sometimes your friend just wants to be heard, so listen up and give some guidance only if they ask for it.

5. Encourage them to seek professional help if they haven’t yet

There is nothing more valuable than health care professionals who are actually, well, caring. Help your friend pick out a good therapist and psychiatrist, and watch them bloom and build resilience over months and months of counselling! If it’s too overwhelming for them, you can help them do the research and just build a list of people with different locations and price points. You can find some resources that I’ve listed here in my old blog post. Wait and see who your friend will give the rose to in the end 🙂

I hope you find my two cents’ worth of information helpful. You know how to contact me if you want more!



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey! The family has been dealing with some mental health issues more recently and your blog as been a great resource to get some perspective, food for thought and great advice. Thanks Joanne! – Alex NL

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alex! I’m glad I can be helpful in some way 💚 feel free to contact me with more questions if you’d like. Always here!


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