There seems to be a slight edge to their voice, and you find yourself walking on eggshells around them. You can see that they are no longer themselves – they maintain a facade around others to seem like their usual self, but only you notice what’s really going on. No longer do they find happiness in the activities they used to love, and that spark in their eyes is no longer alive. Their erratic mood swings and temperamental behaviour has you at your wit’s end about how to talk to them. You can feel the strain in your relationship whenever you talk, and despite being in the same house, never have both of you felt more apart. They are drowning in their own problems – and aren’t letting you in.

Moreover, are you equipped to deal with their issues objectively? Self-doubt, helplessness and the pain of seeing a loved one suffer plagues you. Seeking help from a professional might be just the thing they need. But you know they are proud and hate to admit that they need help. Then how do you convince them to do what is best for them?

One in seven people in India has a mental illness, ranging from depression and anxiety to severe conditions like schizophrenia. The World Health Organisation has declared that India is the most depressed country globally, and the country suffers from a lack of mental health professionals – psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists. While the nation has made significant strides in destigmatising mental health in recent times, the myth that mental health itself is unimportant, and that it is a sign of ‘weakness’ to see a therapist has deterred many from seeking professional help.

Whether it is your teenage child or partner of many years – it is essential that loved ones act as the first line of support while dealing with mental illness. When you notice prolonged changes in behaviour, thoughts about self-harm and suicide, reckless conduct, or intense feelings around simple tasks – stay alert. Your loved one might be experiencing mental health problems.

In times like these, it is important to understand what they are going through. When someone we care about is in pain, our first instinct is to be there for them and ask them to tell us their problems so we can solve it for them.

This, however, is not the best approach to dealing with mental health issues. A professional is a neutral, unbiased third party who is trained to deal with such matters. Not only do they facilitate a safe space for the person to understand and deal with their problems, but they also empower the person to solve the problem on their own.

Treatments for mental illness are highly effective, and those suffering from mental health problems must receive support (or sometimes even a push) from their loved ones to seek help.

Convincing someone to seek help is a sensitive and delicate matter – and if done incorrectly, can completely turn one against the idea. It is a tricky situation that needs to be handled with compassion, strong and convincing points, utmost care, and zero judgement. Here are some ways to convince your loved one to seek professional help:

Show Support and Offer Help

To have an effective conversation, make it abundantly clear that both of you are on the same team. This isn’t a debate between the two of you regarding who is right, and who isn’t. Instead, it is a discussion about what is best for the team together. Many misconceptions and myths surround seeking help for mental health – so use comforting and destigmatising language.

Instead of an accusatory tone, like saying “You always do X”, use a more comforting approach like “I have been feeling that … X”. Make it clear that it is up to them to decide who they want to tell about seeking help, and promise confidentiality and privacy. Ensure that they know that you will not treat them differently or judge them for seeking help – rather, you will respect them for their strength. Talk to them about your personal experiences with seeking help, and how it benefited you.

Sometimes, while they might be aware they need help, they might shy away from the whole process or be overwhelmed by it. You could contact therapists and research professionals who would be best suited for their area of concern. Guide them to finding the therapist who would be best for them. If they are uncomfortable going through the whole process alone, offer to sign up for group sessions. You could go with them for the first few sessions, and wait outside during the appointment.

Be Sensitive and Value Their Privacy

Talking to someone about such a delicate issue is complicated. It is crucial to create a comfortable setting where they feel secure enough to trust and talk to you. Talk to them privately, and do not involve others. Do not start the conversation in front of others, and do not mention it to others. They need to know that the situation is in their hands, and they need to feel in control of who knows about it.

Betraying their trust by divulging this information to other people will only create more friction, and leave them more isolated than ever before.

Present Compelling Reasons, but Expect Resistance

Your loved one might outright deny that they need help, or even suggest that seeking help from a professional is not for them and that they have alternatives. In such a situation, it is important to break down the reasons why they need to visit a therapist into clear points. Point out specific changes in behaviour, without coming off as being judgemental.

Leverage your relationship in a loving way and explain how this is affecting both of you.

Avoid giving an ultimatum, or coming off as emotionally blackmailing. Sit down and talk to them about specific areas of concern, how it is affecting your special relationship with them, and how this is affecting you and them both.

To Sum It Up:

Acknowledging that someone has a problem and seeking help for it can be incredibly daunting. Being supportive is essential and so is celebrating every small success. Establish that they have a confidante in you who values their growth, privacy and strength. Encourage them to speak to a mental health professional. Get in touch with an expert from the comfort of your home on DocVita: