How to Support Someone Who is Struggling

It seems that over the past few years, especially with the pandemic and recent current events, that there are more people struggling emotionally. With more access to World News, social media posts, TiKToK trends, and Google searches, seemingly everyone has a self-diagnosed mental health condition. In reality, reportedly 25% more individuals have been diagnosed with Depression or Anxiety in the past year. In Georgia alone, 44.3% of adults reported symptoms of Anxiety or Depression and 1 in 6 youth aged 12-17 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Noticeably, in community settings, the work place, places of worship, academic settings, and even your home, conversations about mental health are on the rise. Since the stigma of having a mental health problem has been on the decline, talking about these issues has become more of the norm as individuals no longer want to suffer in silence. Yet there are still a significant number of individuals whose mental health concerns are left untreated. More than 50% of adults live with underlying mental health conditions who are not receiving help and 24.7% of children are not able to receive adequate care. If you know someone who may be struggling with a mental health concern, you may be the first line of defense to get them to the proper level of care. 

How would you know if someone is struggling?

Anyone can experience mental health problems. Recognizing the signs of an individual who may be experiencing a mental health concern is vital. The key to supporting someone who may be struggling is by first recognizing the signs and intervening when you become aware of what may be going on. Here are few common signs that someone may be experiencing mental health problems:

  • Inability to Regulate Emotions (Emotional outbursts or having a “melt down”)

We all need to be able to express our full range of emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration and elation. There are times though, when someone may have a more intensified or prolonged and inappropriate reaction to a seemingly trivial event. This may be cause for concern especially if this is out of the norm for this person’s behavior. 

  • Over Sleeping or Lack of Sleep

A common symptom of mental health concern is having a dramatic change in sleep patterns. If an individual is sleeping excessively or avoiding sleep altogether. This may be a major cause for concern. Note the person’s normal sleep habits and if there is a drastic change over a period of time which also affects their ability to function throughout the day.

  • Drastic Change in Physical Appearance

When a person is generally regarded as someone who takes care of their personal appearance and there is a significant change to include weight loss, changes in hygiene or grooming, this may be a primary sign that there is a mental health challenge. 

  • Social Withdrawal and/or Self Isolation

Every so often we all need personal alone time, however individuals who begin to push others away or shut loved ones out may be facing emotional challenges. Notice if someone begins to avoid leaving their home, cancels agreed upon plans or self isolates from others as this may be a sign pointing to a mental health concern.

Primarily, when you encounter a relative, friend, or colleague who may have a mental health concern. It is very important to communicate your concern as soon as possible in order to get the individual to the proper level of care. An effective Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Interpersonal Effectiveness Communication skill is the GIVE skill.


Be Gentle by sharing your concern with compassion and empathy. Try to avoid harshness and judgement, blame, or attacking. Maintain a calm tone of voice and be mindful of your facial expressions. Remember to respect boundaries if the individual does not initially want to talk about it. Don’t be pushy. The goal is to create a space for the individual to open up and see you as a support in their time of need.


When gathering details of the individual’s situation, show you are interested by remaining focused/present and giving your undivided attention. There may be underlying feelings of shame associated with mental illness. Actions such as maintaining eye contact, nodding, and asking clarifying questions communicate that you care and are genuinely interested in providing care and support to that individual. 


One of the most important relationship skills you will ever “give” to someone is Validation. Validation communicates that you understand what a person is thinking and feeling without trying to change it. One of the highest regards in supporting another person is to convey “I hear you” and “I understand” even if/when you may not agree with the course of action they have taken. 

Easy Manner

Easy Manner is done with a smile or a little humor to ease the heaviness of a conversation. This is not to “poke fun” at a person’s challenges but rather allows a little light-hearted manner to come in as a friendly gesture.

Read more on the Georgia State Fact Sheet.


  • Hillside Program Manager & Therapist – Community Programs - Dionne Patterson Smith has worked at Hillside for over 13 years. She served in the Residential Program as a Behavioral Specialist prior to transitioning to Community Intervention as a Therapist and currently serves as Program Manager for Grant Funded Programs. Dionne is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor. Her training and certifications include Level 4 Triple P Standard Teen & Level 5 Triple P Pathways, DBT (5-Day Intensive), and TF CBT. Her passion for this work is to minimize out-of-home placements by equipping and educating families about the impact of mental/behavioral health challenges and trauma on their family system and to help them better understand the needs of their child in order to better advocate for effective services and supports for their loved one in treatment.

    View all posts
Posted in