How to Help a Loved One Suffering from Mental Illness

As a family member, encouraging a loved one to seek mental health treatment is one of the thinnest tightropes we can walk. The stakes are high, the subject is touchy, and years of stressful family dynamics inevitably come into play. What to do? Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen gets some great advice from mental health advocate Gabe Howard about a family member’s role in a loved one’s mental health recovery.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
2-minute read
Episode #196

image of loved ones holding hands discussing mental illness

“I’m fine!” “I’m not the crazy one—you are!” “I don’t need help!” Too often, encouraging a loved one to seek mental health treatment turns into a stalemate with long-lasting hard feelings, and no one gets the help they need or deserve. How to circumvent a standoff? Enter mental health advocate Gabe Howard. 

Buy Now

As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Affiliate, QDT earns from qualifying purchases.

Gabe is an award-winning writer, speaker, and mental health advocate who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. Gabe is the host of the award-winning podcast, The Psych Central Show, as well as co-host of another podcast, A Bipolar, A Schizophrenic, and a Podcast—it’s pretty easy to guess what that one’s about. You can find them both wherever you like to get your podcasts. You can find his online home at gabehoward.com and he makes his actual home in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and mini-schnauzer, 

In conversation with Savvy Psychologist Ellen Hendriksen, Gabe draws from his personal experience and his years as a mental health advocate to offer what really works in helping a family member accept and maintain mental health treatment.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What you should say to encourage a loved one to seek medical attention, including helpful phrases to try
  • If initial attempts fail, when it’s okay to trick someone into seeking medical help (and how it’s like dealing with a drunk driver)
  • The importance of trusting your gut, but leaving open the possibility that you’re wrong 
  • Why “I” statements are so much more effective than “you” statements
  • Why little sisters—or the equivalent—are so important in the family dynamic 
  • For caregivers, the importance of modeling the way by going to therapy yourself 
  • What recovery from mental illness really looks like 

Listen to the full interview with Gabe and Ellen using this article's audio player or wherever you like to get your podcasts.

how to be yourself ellen hendriksen bookOrder Ellen's book HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Get even more savvy tips to be happier and healthier by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or get each episode delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For free, helpful downloads to fight social anxiety and be your authentic self, visit EllenHendriksen.com.

Image of loved ones holding hands© Shutterstock

Want more Savvy Psychologist? Subscribe below.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.