Suggestions by Samaritan member on how you can respond to someone with mental illness

By Ruth Eleos, Samaritan member  ·  Apr 12, 2021

It seems few people know how to treat the mentally ill. We suffer in silence. Here are my suggestions as to what you can do to love us:

  • Know it might feel like trying to pet a porcupine but keep caring; please keep asking questions and listening. Sometimes when friends began to probe and I tried to verbalize what I was experiencing, I’d discover my own irrational thoughts. It was a helpful and grace-growing process (Ephesians 4:29). 
  • Remember that bizarre thoughts are not necessarily sins. Mental illnesses can barrage someone with many bizarre thoughts, but God alone is able to judge the intentions of the heart and grant His grace (Hebrews 4:11-13).
  • Don’t minimize our struggle by telling us that what we are experiencing is typical. If you’ve not needed psychiatric hospitalization or been engaged with a loved one who has, we have a hard time believing you can truly relate. 
  • Give grace for questions and doubts (Jude 1:22).
  • When we disappear, offer words of encouragement; a simple, “I missed you at church today, but it is OK” is usually safe (1 Thessalonians 5:14b). 
  • We need hope, and there is no better place to find it than in Christ among friends in a Biblical church (Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Remind us that you love us (Proverbs 17:17). 
  • Employers can create ways to work with people with mental challenges and preserve personal dignity. During the hardest and most volatile eight years of my life, I was able to work for a gracious and flexible employer.