When someone you care about is struggling with mental health issues, it can disrupt your lives and your relationship. Eventually, you may find yourself wanted to discuss your concerns with your loved one. There is no easy way to approach the subject, but in order to begin the healing, you must first learn how to talk to someone about going to therapy.
Mental health issues are often stigmatized, or even considered "made up illnesses." But according to a report by The Centre for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group at The London School of Economics and Political Science, mental illness is typically more debilitating than most chronic physical conditions. The report indicated that, on average, a person with depression is at least 50 percent more disabled than someone with angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes.
The majority of people with physical illnesses would not hesitate to seek medical treatment, however many of those with mental illness believe that they can treat their anxiety or depression on their own. Stigma accounts for the nearly 40 percent of individuals with serious mental illness who do not receive care, according to the Association For Psychological Science (APS).
If you believe that your loved one could benefit from therapy, here are some ways to bring up the conversation.
Ph.D. Ellen Hendriksen of Quick And Dirty Tips recommended that, when confronting a loved one who could benefit from therapy, approach it problem of your own. You can start by saying "I’m worried," "I’m concerned," or "I’m afraid." Avoid "you" statements such as “you need help” or “you have a problem,” as it reads as judgmental.
According to Psych Central, you should choose the right time and place to bring up the conversation. Don't try talking about this important subject during family gatherings or in the middle of a fight. Hendriksen also warned against having a serious conversation with someone who’s drunk, hungover, high, angry, or distracted. She recommended a long car ride for a heart-to-heart conversation.
You may see interventions working on television, but according to Harley Therapy, an intervention is more likely to make them feel worse. The clinic's blog, written by a team of highly experienced psychotherapists, counseling psychologists, and psychiatrists noted that, "if you bring someone else into it it’s like you are trying to gang up on them, which is bound to make them defensive." Consider saving the intervention for a serious mental condition or addiction.
Hendricksen suggested being prepared to show evidence and indisputable facts, instead of simply telling them you think something is wrong. You should then immediately follow with empathy and love. She wrote: "your cold, hard facts can’t stand alone — they need to be wrapped in a package of compassionate concern so your loved one can hear them."
It's very likely that once you approach a loved one about seeking therapy, their initial reaction will be defensiveness and anger. They may react by telling you that you are the one who needs help, and they may put you down. "Anger is what’s called a secondary emotion," Hendriksen explained. "It’s the armor that covers up the soft, vulnerable underbelly of the primary emotion, which could be shame, hurt, fear, humiliation, or guilt."
It may not seem fair for you to seek therapy when a loved one is the one in need. But, according to Psyched in San Francisco, a state-of-the-art psychotherapy center, going to therapy means that you get to be heard and validated, and you get to learn to love yourself better and grow emotionally. Seeing a mental health profession can also help to normalize the word "therapy" in your household, which can mean less defensiveness and stigma when suggesting therapy for your loved one.