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How to Help a Person Struggling with Mental Health

The value of listening cannot be understated. Without a doubt, it is a crucial part of how to help a person struggling with mental health. However, supporting mental health often means more than awareness and having a conversation. Do you know someone who is or may be struggling with mental health issues in their life? Here are some evidence-based tips that could help.

How to help a person struggling with mental health through sleep

Sleep quality and quantity are related to mental health wellness. In other words, lack of sleep directly affects mental state. Therefore, insomnia or sleep disorder aligns with mental health problems.

The Harvard Medical School published and updated a Mental Health Letter in March 2019. The letter explains:

Traditionally, clinicians treating patients with psychiatric disorders have viewed insomnia and other sleep disorders as symptoms. But studies in both adults and children suggest that sleep problems may raise the risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders. This research has clinical application, because treating a sleep disorder may also help alleviate symptoms of a co-occurring mental health problem.

Paragraph 3, Harvard Mental Health Letter, “Sleep and Mental Health”. March 2019.

How to help a person struggling with mental health through diet and nutrition

Keeping a balanced diet of healthy and tasty food may help to protect against certain mental health conditions. Nutrient-rich foods provide quality fuel for your body as well as your mind to maintain performance.

Rebecca A. Clay from The American Psychological Association (APA) writes in her 2017 research report that even small dietary changes can have a big impact:

67 depressed adults were randomly assigned to seven individual nutritional consulting sessions with a dietician or seven social support sessions over 12 weeks. The dietician helped participants make adjustments to their diets, such as eating less junk food and more ­nutrient-rich foods such as produce, fish, and legumes. While just 8 percent of the control group achieved remission, almost a third of the dietary intervention group did (BMC Medicine, Vol. 15, No. 23, 2017).

Paragraph 4, Monitor on Psychology, “The link Between food and mental health”.

How to help a person struggling with mental health through regular exercise

The advised 150 minutes of exercise per week has sound effects on mood and mental health. Exercise is as potent as a treatment for depression as prescription drugs, and furthermore, reduced remission.

Kristine Weir from the APA cites the mounting evidence in her cover story as well as the helpful effect of exercise on the brain:

In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with a major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, Blumenthal found, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise, he concluded, was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2007).

Paragraph 9, Monitor on Psychology, “The exercise effect”. December 2011.

How to help a person struggling with mental health through community involvement

Community involvement strengthens social ties and also helps to reinforce personal goals and self-identified roles. Resilience and strength in mental health are created because of community involvement.

Jon Fieldhouse from the University of the West of England confirms the role of community in mental health wellness in The British Journal of Occupational Therapy:

Facilitating engagement in community-based occupations through creative collaboration helped participants reconnect with cherished roles, achieve long-standing goals and develop feelings of self-efficacy, belonging as well as wellbeing.

Paragraph 4, Abstract, “Community Participation and Recovery for Mental Health Service Users: An Action Research Inquiry”. September 2012.


Mental health is an everyday practice that requires conversation and action to maintain. Therefore, putting these and other strategies in place for yourself can help build mental health. Putting them into place for others is difficult. Above all, referring to a medical professional or trained clinician is always the most productive action.


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