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.

Be strong by reaching out for support from

your friends and family.

Let your friends know that you are feeling like you

would like to talk.

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.

WANT TO TALK?

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

DON’T TRY TO “FIX”

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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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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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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CELEBRATE EVERY VICTORY

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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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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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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MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS

I'M HERE FOR YOU.

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.

HOW ARE YOU, REALLY?

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.

It wasn’t too long ago when a woman with breast cancer didn’t dare admit it in public — too much stigma and embarrassment. Fast-forward 30 years, and we have people “thinking pink” loud and often to raise awareness for the disease and money for research.

Mental health issues are in the same place breast cancer was three decades ago. The “hush hush” attitude toward mental illness makes it hard for people to talk about this disease, whether it’s their own or a loved one’s. Two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness don’t seek help, and that’s a tragedy with effective treatments available.

Now is the time for change. A new grassroots movement called Okay to Say is raising awareness about mental health issues that affect Texans. They’re also shining the spotlight on the challenges and successes people encounter when seeking help. They are making it okay to say, “I need help” or “someone I care about needs help.”  

The statewide effort launched in March with President George W. Bush, Emmitt Smith, and Mark Cuban encouraging people to join the movement and add their voice through a statewide social and digital media campaign.

“Nine out of 10 Texans think that it is more difficult to discuss mental health rather than a physical issue,” says Andy Keller, PhD, chief executive officer of the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, one of the creators of the Okay to Say movement. “By starting the conversations, we help those living with mental illness, as well as their families and loved ones, know that they are not alone and that effective treatment exists.”

One of the worst parts of living with mental illness is the lack of hope or knowledge about available help, as well as the bias that leads to social, psychological, and physical costs and tragic personal consequences. Too many people with a treatable mental illness delay or even fail to get care.

No one has to suffer alone. Okay to Say wants to break this cycle. 

Texans can show their support to those with mental illness by signing their names — or signing in anonymously — on OkaytoSay.org, and by uploading photos, videos, personal stories, and sharing the campaign with friends and family on social channels.

“The first step in getting people help is to realize that it’s okay to say you live with mental illness or know someone who does,” Keller says. “By talking openly about mental health, we can lead the way in getting people the help they need.”

Sign your name below to show your support for those living with mental illness.

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