So many people suffer silently from mental illnesses, but they shouldn’t have to. Recent reports have shown that one in five people have a mental illness diagnosis. People don’t hesitate to tell others if they need treatment or medication for cancer or diabetes. But when it comes to mental illness, many still keep their struggles hidden. Too many people commit suicide because they feel they can’t deal with life anymore and that no one cares about them. However, if we all showed more compassion and understanding to one another, maybe those people would want to stay in this world. Maybe they would regain a sense of hope in humanity.

1 in 5 Adults has been diagnosed with a varying degree of mental illness. That’s over forty million Americans, more than the populations of New York and Florida combined.

You never know what people struggle with in their own heads. So it only makes sense to show kindness to everyone. Think of how different the world would look if we filled it with love, peace, and understanding instead of hate, violence, and disregard. It’s no wonder that mental illnesses have been on the rise worldwide; our external world is full of chaos, stress, disconnection, and increasing responsibility, so how can one’s internal world remain calm?

If you know someone with a mental illness, try to keep the following things in mind because each day is a new battle for them.

Here are 5 ways to show compassion to someone with a mental illness:

mental illness

1. Be there for them.

There’s no denying that supporting someone with a mental illness can be tough. Their symptoms might frustrate or tire you. But remember that they are the ones that have to live with the illness. They have to live with their minds every day, which is beyond frustrating for them. Allow them space and comfort to open up about their struggles whenever possible. Maybe refer them to a therapist who could help, or look up some free online resources for them to look at.

People with mental illnesses should not be shunned and made to feel weaker or inferior; they need love and support just like everyone else, and sometimes, just listening and showing kindness could save their life.

2. Take their mind off the illness.

People are more than just their illness; sometimes, they have difficulty seeing that. Depending on the illness, they might withdraw from social activities and not have much energy to go places. If you know they don’t get out much and don’t have many friends, maybe take them on a fun outing. They might find a temporary distraction from their pain.

According to a blog (now deleted) on PsychCentral by Támara Hill, MS, LPC, “This is called reframing. Reframing is a great psychological tool because it takes a negative statement and puts a positive or more accurate spin on things. For example, instead of saying “you need to get out more, all you do is isolate” you can say “I read in an article that the best way to treat depression is by getting out sometimes and doing something you enjoy. Why not join me for dinner tonight?”

compassion for mental illness

3. Learn about their illness.

Without knowing the ins and outs of what someone goes through, you can’t really “take a walk in their shoes.” However, educating yourself about the illness will show them that you sincerely care about them and will give you a greater understanding of their mental disorder. Once you know why they act or think the way they do, showing compassion will seem easier because you’re armed with knowledge about the illness.

For example, if you once got angry at your friend with social anxiety for canceling plans on you last minute, you might have greater compassion the next time they do that because you’ll know that social outings and situations are very difficult for them.

4. Check up on them.

Everyone wants to feel cared about, but people with mental illnesses just need a little extra love and attention. Maybe they didn’t get the support they deserved as a child, which makes it difficult for them to lead a “normal” adult life. You don’t know their past, but you can treat them like they deserve in the present. Call a couple of times a week. A check-in can greatly impact their self-worth and well-being, especially if they live alone and don’t get out much. Knowing that someone out their cares about them can make it a bit easier to live with their condition.

5. Let them know they aren’t alone.

From the same article referenced above, Mrs. Hill said, “It’s wonderful when we can join with someone and make them feel supported and loved. The healing process or recovery process is always more successful when the person feels loved, supported, and understood. When you make someone feel like you are on their team, they are more likely to be motivated to succeed.”

No one should have to suffer alone, but sadly, many people with mental illnesses do. Restore a person’s faith in humanity; instead of telling them “You’ll get through this,” help them get through it. If we all simply cared about bringing others up instead of primarily looking after ourselves, the world would look a lot different. People need to feel like they belong somewhere. So if you can make someone suffering feel even a little more included, you might just change their whole outlook on life.