How do you encourage someone that they need to seek help? There is nothing wrong with asking for mental or emotional help. If someone broke an arm, were missing a chunk of their head, or having a stroke or a heart attack, you wouldn’t wonder about how to tell someone to get help or wonder if they would be offended. So, why do we feel this way about encouraging them to seek counseling? Maybe it is the way we go about it.
If a loved one is acting in unhealthy ways or seems unable to move through the everyday functions of life, there is a problem. Only addressing the issue will not get them to a point where they are empowered to ask for help. Pointing out their personhood (value) and your concern beyond what they are doing is the best way to engage them. Sometimes we think we have to confront, but more often than not, I have found most people are more receptive to a conversation that empowers them and offers hope to believe for a change.
Start the Conversation
For instance, say I have a friend who has isolated themself from their family, isn’t answering texts, and appears to be slipping into a depression. I don’t start with a statement like, “What is happening with you? Why are you doing this (or not doing this, as the case may be)? I think you need some help.” That sentiment will only reinforce shame, which will deepen the emotional and mental struggle.
Instead, we need to start a conversation first by acknowledging their worth, “You are such an amazing individual even if you don’t feel like it right now.” Then communicate your concern, “I am worried about you. It seems you have some tough stuff you are dealing with.” You could even gracefully point out some of the things you have observed that reinforce that concern. Give them space to attempt to articulate some things and don’t push them — most people need to know their feelings are validated, and they are being listened to.
After the initial validation and space for engagement, it is important to address that it’s okay to feel depressed or anxious. That is our brain’s way of trying to make sense of our situations by attempting to control either the past or the future. However, just because it is “normal” doesn’t mean that we have to stay in that place. There is space for our brains to heal, but that takes guidance and intervention.
Provide a Solution
Finally, follow up with a solution. You might say, “As much as I would like to, I am afraid I don’t have the skillset or the understanding to help you. Would you be interested in talking to a counselor/going to a program to help you work through some of these harder emotions?”
Here is the thing: If you tell someone they need help, you need to either offer some suggestions or at least point them in a direction to find some answers for themselves. Then, help them walk through the process of lining that up by providing accountability, emotional support, and guidance.
You can’t make someone get help. All you can do is your best to encourage someone to seek help. Our responsibility as their loved ones is to reinforce their worth and resist the need to control their choices. If counseling is going to work, they have to choose it for themselves. Your role simply is to love them and support them, not do it for them. I hope these few simple steps have empowered you to see how to encourage someone to seek help!
Mercy Multiplied is a free-of-charge residential counseling program that helps young women ages 13-32 break free from life-controlling issues and situations. Apply today or learn more by visiting MercyMultiplied.com.
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