I recently wrote a post on things that you shouldn’t say to those of us with Bipolar Disorder. I want to provide some things that are useful to say to a family or friend with Bipolar Disorder, or any mental illness really, if you are worried about them or would like to open the conversation about their mental health.
1. How have you been feeling lately?
A simple question of this sort in conversation takes some of the pressure off and it means that if we don’t want to talk about our mental illness specifically, we can answer generally, but it also gives us an opening to talk about more serious things with you if we feel like we want to.
2. Could I ask you some things about your mental illness?
If there are things you want to know about our mental illness and you would like to ask us about, it’s a really good idea to ask first of all if we would be open to you asking some questions before you jump in with them. This allows us to express if we are comfortable and perhaps tell you if there are any topics we would rather not discuss.
3. Is there anything I can do to help?
If you’re worried about us and you aren’t sure how to act, what to say or what to do next, just asking us honestly and openly if there’s anything you could do can mean the absolute world. It means that if there are things we would like your help with, we can ask for them without feeling so awkward bringing it up, and if not then the act of asking the question can make us feel supported and cared about in itself.
4. Do you want to just sit quietly together?
If we are going through depression, sometimes the last thing we want to do is talk about things and it can be really tough to socialize which often leads to people isolating themselves so they don’t have to deal with social interactions. Offering to sit quietly with someone, to just be there and telling them that they don’t have to talk, but that you don’t want them to be alone, can be one of the most supportive things you can do for someone. It can really make a difference. It doesn’t always have to be about actively doing something.
5. I’m here for you anytime
Knowing that someone is there for you and that they really mean it, that it’s not just a pleasantry but that if you rang them or needed them, they would be there for you, is one of the most helpful and important things for someone with mental illness. It makes you feel less alone, that you truly have support and that you can always reach out for someone. Sometimes that simple phrase can be one of the most special things you can say to a loved one who is struggling.