I've had a lot of people tell me that when I have first told them about my mental illness that they have no clue what to say to me. I know that people want to say the right thing, they want to be able to help you. But its really hard, especially if it's not something that they have first hand experience with.
So what should you say, if someone tells you that they are struggling with a mental illness, what do you say without being condescending or naive?
There is no obvious or easy answer to this question; it's important to remember that everyone is different. Each individual is going to be in a different place and therefore, may react to what you have to say differently. Acknowledging this, I can only talk from my own personal experience but I hope that it may help other people.
What can I do to help? This is always going to be the best way to approach someone, this lets them tell you what is going to be the most helpful thing for them. It's lush when someone asks me this question, it shows that they care about my opinions and that they respect that I'm the only one that knows what's best for me. However, this can be a very hard question to answer particularly when you are in crisis. I can admit that sometimes a person will ask me this question and it is all I can do to look up at them and say "I wish I knew". Even if this doesn't necessarily directly help the person at least it shows that you are trying to make an effort to understand them and also it shows the person that you are willing to help them.
Arrange to spend time with them. The concept of love languages is interesting to me, especially as someone with an interest in psychology. Knowing someone's love language can massively help communicate to someone how much you appreciate them in a way that will really get through to them. As someone who struggles with feeling very insecure one of my very strong love languages is people wanting to spend time with me. As well meaning as it is, I really struggle to believe the nice things that people say to me and I'm not particularly fussed about gifts or people doing things for me. For me, the best way someone can tell me that they love me by sitting next to me and watching a move, making an effort to talk to me. My mental illnesses can't corrupt that time, it's clear that they love me because they spent their time with me making sure I was okay, it's a clear and undeniable act of love.
Reach out. When you're having rough day knowing that someone is thinking about you can really help. Send them a text message and let them know that you love them and are thinking of them and are hoping they are okay. Even though it's a 10 second exercise for you, it may make their day.
Give them a hug. Make sure they're a hugging person first! For me a love a good hug and therefore, when I've had a bad day or bad week a good hug can just make me feel safe and cared for. This can really help me just to calm down and centre me a bit.