How to Support People Facing Mental Health Challenges

Mental Health Day is October 10. According to the World Health Organization, one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. So how do we support those who suffer?

* Recognize that many mental illnesses have nothing to do with choices. Often we have an erroneous theology of the physical body that labels physical illness as involuntary but mental illness as a choice. Yet, the brain misfiring, lacking connectors, or working without needed chemicals can affect behavior in ways that are out of a person's control.

* Be present. Often when we lack words to say, we disappear rather than endure the discomfort. Choose to stay and care.

* Listen. If your loved one wants to talk about a diagnosis, enter the conversation instead of changing the subject.

* Resist the temptation to give advice. Many mysteries lie beyond our control to help or advise or fix. Your loved one has probably tried all the logical solutions and explored a few seemingly illogical ones. Offering an easy fix when no one asked our opinion can add to the sense of isolation.

* Ask if your friend is getting the help he or she needs. If not, offer to research resources and accompany him or her to a place that offers effective care.

* Keep inviting. People facing mental health challenges may refuse invitations to participate, but being invited still means a lot.

* Educate yourself. Knowing what to expect helps you be a better friend. And your effort to understand communicates care.

Sandra Glahn, who holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and a PhD in The Humanities—Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/Dallas, is a professor at DTS. This creator of the Coffee Cup Bible Series (AMG) based on the NET Bible is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books. She's the wife of one husband, mother of one daughter, and owner of two cats. Chocolate and travel make her smile. You can follow her on Twitter @sandraglahn ; on FB /Aspire2 ; and find her at her web site: aspire2.com.

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