Supporting Your Loved Ones During Mentally Difficult Times

By: Fajr Zahid, Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences Well-being Leader

It can be very difficult to watch a loved one, whether it be a family member, close friend, or romantic partner, go through a tough time in their life. Whether they are struggling with their mental health, physical health, or both, it is important to be able to recognize the warning signs and help the person work towards improving their health and well-being.

In comparison to physical illness, which usually has distinct, visible symptoms and changes in the body, mental illness is often harder to recognize and treat. It also holds a greater stigma around it, which can discourage those who are affected from finding and receiving help. Although every individual demonstrates their struggles in a different way, there are specific signs that may indicate if someone in your life is experiencing mental illness and needs help. Some of these signs include:

  1. Extreme mood changes (highs and lows)
  2. Excessive feelings of worry or fear
  3. Low energy and tiredness
  4. Changes in sleep pattern/difficulty sleeping
  5. Withdrawal from loved ones and engaging in isolating behaviors
  6. Inability to cope with stress or daily hassles
  7. Changes in eating habits
  8. Misusing or abusing substances such as alcohol, marijuana, or pills
  9. Excessively angry, violent, or hostile behavior
  10. Suicidal thoughts and/or actions

If you suspect that your loved one is struggling with their mental health and well-being, or if their mental illness seems to be getting worse, understand that there are many ways in which you can offer them assistance and resources to help them better cope with these struggles.

Try to educate yourself on the hardships that the person you are concerned about is experiencing. If they have shared with you their past struggles with mental illness, it can help to educate yourself on the specific disorder(s) they are dealing with and act according to what you have learned. Do not be afraid to start a conversation with them and address the concerns you have about their wellness. Although the idea of doing this can be intimidating, and you may be worried about how they will react to it, understand that you are doing it out of a loving and caring place. When speaking to them, make sure to be patient, understanding, non-judgmental, and a good listener. Also, try to encourage them to meet with a professional. This could be a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, or their primary care physician – whichever they are most comfortable with. Experts such as these can provide resources for the person you are concerned about, and assist in creating a plan to help them overcome their mental struggles.

UMass Lowell’s Office of Student Life & Well-being provides a variety of resources for students who are struggling with their health and well-being. If the person you are worried about is a student at UMass Lowell, here are some mental health resources that could be beneficial to them:
● Counseling Services:
● Well-being Leaders:
● Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 855-890-2879

While it can be really saddening and challenging to watch someone you love and care for go through a mentally tough time, remember that there are many ways in which they can be helped. Try to remain positive and hopeful during difficult times such as these, and be sure to remind your loved one that their presence is valuable. Also, while it is very important to be there for someone when they are struggling, do not forget to also look out for your own health and well-being in the midst of trying to help another person improve theirs.