Last month was Mental Health Month and social media blew up with people's stories about mental illness. There are still many misconceptions about mental disorders and how to approach someone who is struggling with anxiety, depression, etc, but there are ways to help that are more effective than just telling them to 'snap out of it.' Here are a few ideas that you can think about next time you want to comfort a friend who is struggling:

1. Don't Tell Them That They Don't Look Anxious Or Depressed

Mental illnesses are different from physical illness in how they present themselves. Many people struggling with mental illness may look "normal" or "happy," but that does not make their condition any less valid. I have Persistent Depressive Disorder and there is nothing that I dislike more than when someone tells me, "you don't look depressed." While I still am able to present myself in a way that one does not normally associate with depression, that does not mean I am struggling any less. Instead of telling someone that they don't look depressed, try to say more comforting statements like "although I don't know exactly what you are going through, I am here for you" or "I'm only a phone call away" to let them know that they have support around them. 

2. Reach Out To Them 

Many of those struggling tend to isolate and disconnect themselves from others and the outside world. While some might view calling a friend to go to a restaurant as a small gesture, for those struggling to barely leave their house it is an action like this that helps them to get outside and serve as a healthy distraction from their daily struggles. 

3. Research And Offer Suggestions

No, this does not mean go write a 15 page research paper about mental illness. This just means learn about different disorders and conditions to become more knowledgeable and understanding. There has been some research conducted about different foods and activities that have been shown to decrease depression symptoms and overall health. According to, "In a large review of studies, people eating the most fish had a 17% lower risk of depression than those eating the least fish. Another review found that omega-3 fish oil supplements boosted the effects of medication in people with depression, compared with taking a placebo." This information can be useful because now instead of going to a diner to grab a burger, you can invite your friend to a restaurant with nice selections of fish and help them at the same time!

Final Thoughts

Even though June is not Mental Health Month, that does not mean the topic has to be silenced. The best thing that can be done to reduce the stigma around mental illness is to talk about it. If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them and let them know you are there. You never know how a text or a phone call might change someones day or life.