Our mentors and page authors are not necessarily psychologists or therapists. Even when they are, this page is not medical or psychological advice and they are not creating a doctor/therapist-client relationship. You should consult a professional if possible and they can tell you whether this advice applies to your situation. If this is an emergency, you should call your national emergency number, like 911, or a mental health hotline, like 1-800-950-6264.

Kudos to you for wanting to help people! Here are some tips to do the best job you can of supporting the people in your life with mental illnesses. If you are struggling or want more specific advice on behalf of someone else, please reach out to us and we will do our best!

Main Tips

  • Point people to our self-help toolkit. It’s proven tips from therapists and can really help.
  • Remember that mental health is just as physiological as physical health.
  • Poor mental health is not anyone’s fault. It’s not just a state of mind and it’s hard to control.
  • Remind them that no matter how alone they feel, they aren’t, even if you’re the only person that cares about them.
  • Remind them that it doesn’t last forever. Things will get better eventually. You just gotta hang in there long enough
    • In this vein, ask about milestones they can look forward to and motivate them (think: graduation, birthday, new job, etc).
  • Ask people about the compliments they like receiving and the good things in their life. Suggest they include more of these things. Remember the compliments so you can give them at a later date.
  • Make sure you identify whether they are talking to you because they need a distraction or because they need to vent.
    • If they need a distraction, start talking about times when you’ve overcome a bad situation or something similarly positive (or something funny, etc).
    • If they need to vent, try to stay quiet as much as possible, but remind them that you’re listening. Sometimes it takes time for a person’s thoughts to collect and form sentences, especially when in distress.
    • They might just need your presence. No talking necessary and that’s okay. Just be there.
  • But don’t allow more than one or two sessions or hours of just venting. Try to offer advice. If you think a person is using you to vent frequently and refuses to change anything about their life, you can prioritize your mental health. Kindly let them know, “I understand you’re going through a lot right now, but I feel that my advice is not helping you. I’m very tired/stressed and I’ll try to think of ways to help you and get back to you later!”
    • For our mentors, continue to encourage people to take steps to fix their life, saying “I understand you feel bad and here’s something that might make you feel better! We should try it.”
  • If you think someone doesn’t want to take your advice, ask them, “Why are you reaching out for help? What is it I can offer you? Do you just want a shoulder to lean on or can we work together to try and fix some of your situation? I understand if you’re not ready to work on this right now. No pressure.”
  • Don’t downplay any of their thoughts or feelings and don’t judge.
  • Don’t tell them God can fix their problems or that this is all in God’s plan for them. Even for very religious people, this can be harmful to hear.
  • If you have the opportunity, ask them to tell you about things that make them happy and then encourage them to do those things.
  • Don’t discourage anyone from talking about self-harm or suicide. If you’re uncomfortable discussing those topics, let a lead mentor take over the situation. If you are comfortable discussing those topics, don’t romanticize or glamorize them (and don’t let them do that either).
    • Focus on how it’s not actually helpful in the long run and refer back to how those feelings won’t last forever; there’s light at the end of the tunnel whether you can see it or not.
    • Attempting to guilt-trip them out of it can easily backfire, so unless they bring up their friends and family on their own, try to not pull the “your family will be scarred, heartbroken,” etc.
    • You CAN tell them you hope they’ll reconsider because they’re important to the world and you hate seeing them hurt themselves. Can they help others so they see the value in their life? If they’re cutting, are there other ways that work for them to let out their anger and pain?
    • If they’re actively attempting or about to attempt suicide, try to dissuade them using techniques here. If you know them personally, try to alert their family and/or authorities you trust to help them.
    • If they are suicidal in general, encourage them to get rid of drugs, guns, and other methods of suicide. Keep checking in on them (NEVER be late for a call) and keep letting them know things will get better.
  • Empathize and share stories from your life without overpowering the discussion. Sometimes it’s not helpful to share personal experiences and that’s something you have to gauge on a case-by-case basis. Don’t try to empathize if it’s disingenuous. Staying as honest as possible is important to ensure they trust you enough to get help. If you’re caught in a lie, it’s over.
  • Keep an open mind. Just because you might experience the same mental health issues doesn’t mean you experience them in the same way. Things like anxiety and depression can look very different from one person to another.
  • DO NOT encourage them to use substances like alcohol or drugs. If you have an experience you’d like to share regarding substance use and you feel it’s appropriate, that’s okay. But do NOT encourage them to drink or use drugs of any kind. Even marijuana can cause anxiety and paranoia, especially if the person is inexperienced and predisposed.
  • Be very cognizant of what you say and how you say it. Words leave lasting impressions and you want those impressions to be positive, not damaging.
  • “Staying busy” doesn’t always help and might frustrate the person you’re mentoring if you suggest it. Proceed with caution. Point them to mood monitoring and journaling so you can both figure out what actually helps.
  • Having the ability to step outside of your own thoughts and feelings to examine the situation from an outside point of view is a skill that takes practice. If you can help them achieve that, it will help them process their thoughts and feelings in a positive manner and bring them one step closer to controlling their issues.
  • They’re not the only one that feels the way they do, BUT not “everyone” feels that way too. Mental health issues aren’t something that should be passed off as a trivial thing everyone deals with at some point.
  • PAY ATTENTION to how the person is responding to what you say. If they’re seeming to be in a worse position than when you started, something is wrong.
  • Domestic Violence: If you find the person is in a toxic relationship of some sort, don’t immediately (or at all) try to tell them to purge that person from their life. Try to *carefully* help them come to the realization that the relationship is toxic (if they haven’t already). The person may not be able to remove themself from the situation and it’s not up to you to decide if they can.
    • Is it domestic violence? 
      • Recognize that abuse can be entirely psychological.
      • Recognize the person may not be aware they are being abused.
      • Look for controlling and jealous partners.
      • Look for attempts to isolate them from friends and family.
      • Look for insults, control, and threats of harm.
      • Ask about physical injuries you see and watch out for obvious lies. Try to build their trust and keep saying they can trust you.
    • If this toxic relationship turns out to be domestic violence, you can call here; this is a good resource.
      • Acknowledge they’re in a scary situation and it’s frightening.
      • Don’t judge them for staying.
      • Be supportive if they end their relationship; they may feel sad and lonely and be tempted to go back.
      • Encourage them to participate in activities outside their relationship and rebuild bonds with other friends and family.
      • Help them develop safety and emergency plans.
      • Put their number on a special caller list so it gets through to your ringtone, regardless of the time.
      • Encourage them to talk to: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or other hotlines. Offer to go with them to therapists or to be on a call with another person who can help.
      • Try trusting them with a minor secret to show them trust outside the family is possible.
    • Sometimes there is nothing you can do for your friend or family member. You can reach out to us and we will try to help.
  • The person may need a friend, but that doesn’t mean you can speak to them like you would your best friend. For example, I tell my best friend the hard, painful truth, no matter how it makes her feel because I’d rather her be mad at me for a moment than stuck in a bad spot for who knows how long. I wouldn’t do the same to a stranger I’m offering to help. If you make the person upset, you might not get them back and trust will be lost.
  • Don’t make comparisons.
  • Don’t pity them; be compassionate. They are a human being above all else; their mental illness does not define them.
  • Try to help them be kinder to themselves. Remind them that everyone is just doing their best.

Never Say These Things:

  • “Other people have it worse off.”
  • “You really should be positive right now.”
  • “You can’t have [insert mental health issue], you seem so positive.”
  • “At least you don’t have a real disability.”
  • “It’s not that bad.”
  • “Just stay positive.”
  • “Don’t say that!” (in response to them talking about their experiences)
  • “I know how you feel.” Repeat sentences they say instead. For example: I hear you and I understand you’re feeling sad about x. You can say you’ve been in similar situations.
  • “You have a lot to live for.”
  • “You’re being selfish.”
  • “You’ll go to hell if you commit suicide.”
  • “Snap out of it.”
  • “Try harder.” Instead say: I know you can do this and I’m rooting for you! I know it’s hard sometimes.
  • “Cheer up.”
  • “You don’t look depressed.”
  • “You think you have it bad…”
  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “It’s your fault.”
  • “It’s because your PMS’ing.”
  • “I also have dreams/voices/mood swings/obsessions” to someone with serious issues like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or OCD. If you don’t have their illness, you probably don’t share their experiences. Instead, ask them what it’s like.
  • “Who cares?”
  • “You don’t think about anyone but yourself.”
  • “Suck it up.”
  • “I don’t understand.” Instead, work hard to understand them. Try: I’m trying to understand you. I have a question about [x].
  • “Oh, here we go again.”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “Everything is going to be fine!!”
  • “A drink might help.”
  • “This too shall pass.” Instead: I think things will be a little better after x activity, but why don’t we try it and see? What do you think will make your life better and hopefully, can we get there?
  • “Just loosen up.”
  • “You aren’t trying hard enough.” Instead: I see you’re trying really hard. Sometimes things are just very tough. Are they ways we can do more positive things or fill your day with easier things so you have more energy to try [cognitive behavioral therapy technique/meditation]? It seems this isn’t working; let’s try something else.
  • “Let it go.”
  • “Your mental illness isn’t an excuse to be a jerk.” This is true, but don’t say it. Instead walk people through why they hurt you and don’t blame it on their illness. If people are very hurtful and are crippling your own mental health, you do not need to stay friends with them. You can recommend they see a therapist and kindly say you need a break for a little. But never blame them for this. Just say you can’t handle it right now and you’re sorry. (To our mentors: you cannot say this. It is your job to help people and if you’re out of your depth, refer them up.

Some Dweebs Specific Advice for Our Mentors:

  • First and foremost: Every discussion is confidential. We will try to never share personal information and if a mentee wishes to remain anonymous, that’s perfectly fine. Please make sure they know this.
  • Please follow the advice on this website, all of which you should read and reread. The Self-Help Toolkit has proven cognitive behavioral techniques from real, practicing therapists. You should guide people to these pages, walk them through tasks they could do to make their lives better, and try to make sure they’re following them.
  • Suggest check-ins to see if they’ve started mood monitoring or journaling and if they’re working through evaluating their thoughts and doing mental exercises. You should attempt to kindly hold them accountable to make sure their mental health is improving! Like with physical exercise, instructors and guides help a lot!
  • Always ask “How can I help you?” We’re here to help however we can.
  • You might end up being literally the only person on the planet the person shares their deepest thoughts with. That can be a huge responsibility and you should decide whether you’re willing to take that on as early in the conversation as possible. The more the person comes to trust you, the more difficult it will be to refer them to another mentor later.
  • If they lash out, don’t take it personally. Their feelings aren’t about you. They might generalize mental health advisors based on a bad experience. It’s your job to be present and listen regardless. Don’t get defensive. Instead, ask questions to get to the root of their feelings and help them see that from another perspective.
  • If a toxic relationship is domestic violence, point people to resources. If they’re unwilling to leave their abuser, unfortunately there is little you can do but continue to encourage them, unless you know their real name and address and can call authorities. (And in a country like the U.S., Dweebs is unsure how helpful cops actually will be, especially with minorities.) Please escalate such an issue to Rebekah Dunlap or Isvari Maranwe immediately or call here and ask for their advice, if the person you’re talking to won’t call them directly.
  • If you can’t help someone, tell Rebekah Dunlap or Isvari Maranwe. We’re leading this for a reason and are always, ALWAYS here to help. We can also tell you what to say if the mentee is uncomfortable talking to someone else. Our advice to you is confidential and we don’t need to know their name/identity.

Mentors

Aaquish Sidhik
Aaquish Sidhik
Data Analyst | Mechanical Engineer
Aditi Bawa
Aditi Bawa
Political Science Student
Aishwarya Halemani
Aishwarya Halemani
Microbiology
Alia Awadallah
Alia Awadallah
Government | Politics
Alisa Miettinen
Alisa Miettinen
Management Assistant, Applied Sciences
Amandeep Kaur
Amandeep Kaur
Molecular Biology
Apoorva Kale
Apoorva Kale
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Apoorva More
Apoorva More
Technical Project Manager
Austin Welsh
Austin Welsh
Freelance Production Coordinator
Bhavani Vajrakarur
Bhavani Vajrakarur
Marketing Manager | Business Administration
Bisharah Saeed
Bisharah Saeed
Management | Operations | Social Media
Camila Diaz Allendez
Camila Diaz Allendez
English Teacher and Translator
Chaitra Pai
Chaitra Pai
Software Developer
Chandrima Modak
Chandrima Modak
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Corrine Newman
Corrine Newman
Legal Assistant
Dennis Caldwell
Dennis Caldwell
Voice Over Artist | Film
Divya Toshniwal
Divya Toshniwal
Legal Associate
Divyang Lakhani
Divyang Lakhani
Structural Engineer
Hanaa Mounzer
Hanaa Mounzer
Leadership Mentor | Public Speaker | Program Coordinator
Isvari Maranwe
Isvari Maranwe
Attorney | Writer | Singer/Pianist
James Hoeffgen
James Hoeffgen
Attorney | Public Defender
Janani Mohan
Janani Mohan
Writer | Researcher | Political Scientist
Jeel Joshi
Jeel Joshi
Social Worker | Environmental Engineer
Karishma Nageshwaran
Karishma Nageshwaran
Digital Marketing | Data Analysis
Katherine Rusmiselle
Katherine Rusmiselle
Writer
Kim Chua
Kim Chua
Data Entry Specialist | Graphic Design
Kimberly Macasevich
Kimberly Macasevich
Writer
Koen Van Den Berge
Koen Van Den Berge
IT Manager
Kunal Wagh
Kunal Wagh
Senior Analyst | Engineer
Lauren Marcus
Lauren Marcus
Occupational Therapist | Childcare
Mohamed Irshad
Mohamed Irshad
Junior Design Engineer│Student Mentor
Mohammad Asad Shaikh
Mohammad Asad Shaikh
Technology
Mohit Singh
Mohit Singh
Application Developer | Writer
Nicole Lucero
Nicole Lucero
Sociology Student
Nikhil Goyal
Nikhil Goyal
Electrical Engineer | Stack Developer
Olivia Zalecki
Olivia Zalecki
Youth Engagement Coordinator | Political Science
Prerit Shah
Prerit Shah
Network Security Operations
Quynh Ta
Quynh Ta
Health Services Administration
Rebekah Dunlap
Rebekah Dunlap
Interior Designer | Architectural Designer | Marketing Coordinator
Ritika Pandita
Ritika Pandita
Yoga Instructor I Business Strategist I Digital Content Creator
Sanchi Bansal
Sanchi Bansal
Fullstack Web Developer
Sharie Marescot
Sharie Marescot
Management
Sharon Kelly
Sharon Kelly
Strategic Business | Interior Design | Women's Rights Advocate
Sherry Waitsman
Sherry Waitsman
Project Manager
Shubh Kela
Shubh Kela
Metallurgical Engineer
Umang Jasani
Umang Jasani
Chemical Engineer
Urmi Shah
Urmi Shah
Freelancer | Engineering Student | Data Science Enthusiast

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