Be Ready for the Ups & Downs

Helping someone with mental health issues can put supporters on the proverbial “emotional rollercoaster.” Don’t give up. Stay connected and be sure to take care of yourself too.

Some days you feel that you know just what to do to be helpful and it seems to be working. Other days, it can feel like everything is going backward, and you feel frustrated, helpless, anxious, or overwhelmed.

Practice empathy, not just sympathy. It will give you the emotional space needed to be an empathetic supporter and serve as a reminder that this isn’t about you. 

Finally, take steps that give you the strength, resilience, and energy to be an effective supporter. Offering care to someone starts with caring for yourself.

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Share Hope

Hope is one of the most important gifts supporters can bring to the mental health journey. Your hope empowers the person you care about to begin to imagine a better life, even when they cannot envision it themselves.

Everyone can put together a vision of hope in their own words, no matter how severe their mental health condition. Help them write down their specific vision for the future. Recognize that hope can be fragile, and a person can be crushed by causal or even well-meaning comments. Support their vision, even if aspects seem unrealistic at first. Over time, the person may – as we all do – adjust the specifics to adapt to current realities and new opportunities. 

When you can offer positive encouragement, the person you are trying to help will be more appreciative of your support and more likely to make progress.

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A person’s mental health journey will likely last a lifetime. While there will be setbacks, there will also be triumphs. Recognize and applaud every step of progress, no matter how small.

Celebrating victories helps to make the mental health journey a more successful one. Recent research shows that confrontation and punishment are not drivers of long-term change and life success. What works? Accelerating access to positive reinforcement.

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Focus On Strengths

As a caring supporter, your most important opportunity is to reinforce strengths, not diminish them by finding flaws. Instead help your loved one feel and be stronger by acknowledging small steps forward and the work it took to achieve them.

To help you appreciate their effort, use a “strengths-based” approach to describing situations, rather than focusing on the negative.

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Ask & Listen

Express your desire to understand what the person is going through by asking questions and being fully present in the conversation.

Welcome them as they are. Ask to hear their story and how they’re feeling. Inquire about behaviors that seem unusual or concerning. Whether good or bad, their experience is their story, and important to respect.

Avoid acting without full knowledge of what has happened or how the person perceives it. Instead take time to listen carefully and gain empathetic understanding of the situation.  That will allow you to be a more effective supporter and partner.

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It’s not your job to “fix” the person. Your role is to be a great partner, helping them to stay focused and hopeful. You aren’t expected to be an expert or have all the answers. Remember, it is their journey, not yours.

Supporters can overcome the fixer mindset by practicing “empathetic detachment.” Empathize with their situation but embrace that you’re not responsible for changing it.

Instead, provide a safe space and allow them to determine what level of support will help them most at that point in time.

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Let your friends know that you are feeling like you

would like to talk.

Be strong by reaching out for support from

your friends and family.

If a friend is experiencing mental health concerns, you can provide valuable support by letting your friend know you are there to talk and listen.



Looking for a simple way to #GoFirst and start an open and honest conversation about mental health? Send this sticker to a friend, asking, “how are you, really?” and show your support by listening to what’s on their mind.

Talking about how we feel to those we love can help us feel supported and less alone. Try sharing your “current mood” with a friend. It can work both ways. If you open up, it might encourage them to do the same.


If you notice a friend or family member who doesn't seem quite like themselves lately, check in and start a conversation.


Check in on those around you every once in a while by sending this sticker and letting them know you truly care about how they’re doing.

Books for helping kids and teens understand mental health

When dealing with issues such as anxiety, depression, or intense emotions, sometimes it can be difficult for a child or teen to make sense of what is happening in their mind and body, especially if they don’t have other experiences for comparison. For kids, reading about these topics can be effective in promoting problem solving, increasing compassion, developing empathy, and enhancing self-awareness. Here are some of our favorite books to help children and teens gain a better understanding of these complex topics. Books like the ones listed below can spark meaningful conversations with your kids and help make talking about mental health easier, more relatable, and a part of daily routine.

Okay to Say Girl Scout Patch Program

The Okay to Say Girl Scout patch program, designed to help girls gain greater social and emotional confidence, is free to all Girl Scouts in Texas. Through a series of hands-on activities, participants develop their social awareness and interpersonal skills. As they explore the impact that emotions and thoughts have on their behavior and that of others, girls also learn how to be more caring and considerate of fellow Scouts, family and friends.

This unique program was created with the support of child and adolescent behavioral health professionals through a partnership between Okay to Say, Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.

Create a Mental Health Safety Plan

According to the Child Mind Institute 2016 Children’s Mental Health Report, mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children. A mental health safety plan can help families formulate coping strategies for situations that cause children and teens increased stress and anxiety, as well as identify potential red flags that signal a need to seek professional help. Complete this worksheet as a family to gather important information and plan ahead to prioritize your child’s mental health.

Helping Kids Cope

Looking for resources while parenting during COVID-19? You’re not alone. See our parent and caregiver resource guide to help maintain you and your family’s mental health.

Prevention and early intervention are essential to children’s mental health!

Every child deserves to grow up healthy and strong, emotionally as well as physically. Yet, the facts are: 50% of all mental illnesses begin by age 14.
1 in 5 children (age 0-11) experience a mental disorder in a given year.
10% of children experience some impairment in daily functioning at home, in school, or in the community due to mental health problems.

It’s also true that most mental illnesses are treatable, and early detection and treatment offers the greatest opportunity for hope and recovery allowing children to grow to be productive, emotionally healthy adults.

Each year, over 550,000 Texas children and adolescents experience severe mental health needs. Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute and its partners are working to change that through policy and system reforms to improve access to mental health services in our communities and schools.

For the latest information on this work, please click the “Learn More” button below.

These resources are for general information purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional. It is not intended to provide mental health advice about any specific condition, or treatment for any specific condition and you should not disregard mental health advice or delay seeking treatment based on your use of this worksheet. MMHPI does not promote, recommend, or endorse any particular service, test, procedure, product or course of treatment and you are strongly encouraged to call or see a mental health professional with any related questions.

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