How to Educate Yourself on Mental Health Resources Available in Other States

Mental health is no longer as taboo a subject as it used to be. More people are realizing that, just like the body, the mind can become sick and injured. Unfortunately, many people overestimate their ability to deal with mental disorders on their own. Some who take this approach may turn out fine in the end. But for others, untreated mental illness can be life-threatening (or at the very least, life-altering).

If you think a friend or family member may be struggling with mental illness, it’s important to become a voice of reason. They’re more likely to listen to the advice of someone they trust over a mere acquaintance. But what if the person you’re concerned about lives far away and you can’t check on them in person? Here are a few ways to get mental help for an out-of-state friend or family member.

Signs a Friend May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health

Those who ignore symptoms of mental illness instead of treating them often suffer needlessly. You can encourage loved ones to seek help, but only if you know how to recognize their symptoms. The degree of help you offer may depend on the severity of their symptoms. For example, if a loved one only shows mild signs of sadness, they may just need your love and attention. On the other hand, someone suffering from severe depression may need to check into a rehab for mental health.

There are many different types of mental illness, but depression is one of the most prevalent. It can also be one of the most life-threatening disorders if it isn’t treated. Here are a few of the most common signs of depression:

  • Sadness
  • Lack of desire to engage in once-loved hobbies
  • Hopelessness
  • Negative self-talk and low self-esteem
  • Persistent irritability
  • Weight changes
  • Lack of energy
  • Over- or under-eating
  • Insomnia
  • Obsession with death

Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to tell how severe a person’s symptoms are when they live far away from you. You’ll have to pay very close attention when talking on the phone or chatting online to pick up on some of these symptoms.

How to Help a Faraway Friend Get Mental Health Help

Once you pick up on the warning signs of depression or other mental health issues, you may wonder what to do next. Getting help for someone who lives in a different zip code can be challenging, but it is possible. Here are a few steps you can take to help your distant loved one. Select the most appropriate items from the below list of suggestions based on the severity of your friend’s mental health issues.

Research Resources Available in Their State

The first thing you’ll want to do after discovering a loved one has depression is research resources available in their state. You can usually do this by using an online search engine and typing in a few keywords. For example, if your friend lives in Colorado, you might search for “mental health resources in Colorado.” You’ll receive many pages of results, so it’s important to take some time to look for the most trustworthy sites. Look primarily for websites that end in “.org,” “.gov,” and “.edu.”

There are also websites and hotlines that provide emergency mental health for the entire nation. Examples include the Crisis Text Line (also known as Mental Health America) and the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. To reach the former, call or text 988. For the latter, text “MHA” to the number 741741. Be prepared to explain why you think your friend’s symptoms may be life-threatening.

Check In With Them Regularly

Sometimes, the best way to help someone suffering from mental health problems is to let them know you care. Checking in regularly can also help you assess whether their symptoms are worsening or becoming life-threatening. Life gets busy, so to avoid letting your loved one fall through the cracks, arrange a regular time to call or chat. This could be daily, weekly, or monthly (depending on your friend’s needs).

When contacting your loved one, make sure they don’t feel like a project or just another thing on your “to-do” list. Take the time to really listen to what they have to say. Become a trusted source of comfort, advice, and even humor as needed. Let them know you’re committed to helping them get through whatever it is they’re going through. You may need to encourage them to talk to a professional, but always do so in a non-judgmental way.

Don’t Make Decisions Without Their Consent

Unless your friend is in a life-or-death situation, don’t make decisions on their behalf without their consent. Doing so could backfire and cause them to stop trusting you going forward. If you think it would do them good to see a therapist, let them know your opinion. But don’t make an appointment with a therapist behind their back.

Sometimes, mental health disorders can cause people to feel overwhelmed. If your friend feels this way, scheduling an appointment with a therapist might feel like too much to handle. If that’s the case, help them locate a good therapist near them and offer to schedule the appointment for them. That way, they’ll still be able to provide their consent before you step in and take charge.

Getting mental health for an out-of-state friend or family member can be tricky. But with a little tenacity and research, it can be done. Your love and attention could quite literally save your friend’s life, so never underestimate the importance of your efforts.

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