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When we want to support others, we must remember to support ourselves too. Our moods, thoughts, bodies and behaviors all have ways of telling us our mental health could use some help. Sometimes we are so used to experiencing these symptoms that we don’t realize it could be related to our mental health.

If you don’t know where to start, here are some gentle questions you can ask yourself or a loved one who might be struggling:

  • How are you feeling today, really? Physically and mentally.
  • What’s been on your mind the most lately?
  • When’s the last time you had a full meal or drank some water?
  • How have you been sleeping?
  • What is something you can do today that would make you feel good?
  • How can I help support you?
  • What’s something we can do together this week, even if we’re apart?

Your mental health is important too!

Checking in with others can take up a lot of energy and may even bring up experiences or feelings around your own mental health. It can be easy to take on other people’s experiences as your own, which can cause you to feel worried or anxious or remind you of something that you have lived through that can lead to feeling unsafe.

Remember that it is okay to reach out to others and that you are deserving of support and care.

You can check-in with yourself with the guided questions and ask others to help check-in with you. You do not need to experience everything on this list in order to reach out for help.


Self-care can promote your mental health and support you through mental health challenges. It is a practice that you can do in your routine that helps you to feel more physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. Even small acts of self-care can have a big impact.

Here are some ways to help you get started with self-care:

Move your body. Even 30 minutes of bodily movement can help improve your mood and health. It’s okay to do small amounts of movement throughout the day that add up to 30 minutes, like stretching, walking, doing yoga, and dancing.

Drink water and eat food, regularly. Drinking plenty of water and snacking when you can gives you energy throughout the day. Food such as fruit, vegetables, and protein can help increase your focus and improve your mood. Limiting caffeine such as coffee and soft drinks helps, too.

Prioritize sleep. Staying on a schedule can help ensure that you’re getting enough sleep. Keep in mind that blue light from screens and devices can make it harder to fall sleep, so it helps to not use your computer or phone close to bedtime. Drinking a caffeine-free tea, taking a warm bath, and listening to calming music are all strategies for relaxation that can lead to improved sleep.

Explore a relaxing activity. Wellness or relaxation apps, videos, podcasts and playlists can cover everything from muscle relaxation and meditation to breathing exercises. These programs are often offered for free. Regular journaling can also help you relax and process your feelings in a quiet space.

Set priorities and goals. We can only take on so many things at one time. Some things need to be done right away and others can wait. It’s okay to say “no” to new tasks if you feel like you’re reaching your limit. Shift your focus away from what you can’t do right now and recognize what you are able to accomplish instead.

Practice gratitude. Every day, take time to remind yourself of things for which you are grateful. It can be big things, like family or your health, or small things, like a friendly stranger’s smile Writing down what you’re grateful for at night or replaying them in your mind fosters gratitude.

Think positivity. While having negative thoughts is normal, focusing too intensely on negative thoughts can weigh you down. To help your mental health, identify and challenge your negative thoughts and replace them with self-compassion. For instance, you may think after a work meeting, “I’m so dumb! I shouldn’t have said that.” Acknowledge that that thought wasn’t kind to yourself, and then intentionally choose to reframe it with something like, “I felt challenged in that meeting. Next time I could try saying this.”

Stay connected. We all need support from a network of people. Don’t hesitate to reach out to family or friends who can support you emotionally or give helpful advice.

Self-care looks different for everyone. It may take time to figure out what you enjoy and need. Although self-care does not cure mental health challenges, it can help you to learn what helps your mental health.

You may benefit from talking to about your concerns with your primary care provider, especially if you are experiencing increased or severe symptoms that have lasted more than two weeks or more. Symptoms include difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, struggling to get out of bed, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, and the inability to do your usual daily tasks.. Your provider can refer you to a mental health professional. You can also find more local information in the Long Beach Mental Health Resource Guide.


The following are just a few things to consider when thinking about ways to support your loved one.

Remember they are human first. Different feelings and emotions may come up throughout your conversation, such as anger, sadness, and confusion. It can be uncomfortable and scary for someone to share openly about their mental health, especially if they have not talked about it with anyone else. Welcome the speaker to the conversation as they are and be patient with them while they express themselves.

Practice active listening. Active listening is different than just hearing what a person has to say. Before starting a conversation, make sure you have the time and space to give your complete attention to the person who is talking (e.g., avoid trying to multi-task).

Let the other person know you are paying attention and understand what they are sharing. One way to do this is by asking more questions, which can help you understand the situation. Using nonverbal communication cues, like nodding your head to show you understand, also shows that you are following them.

After the other person shares their thoughts, you can thank the person for sharing and ask if they’re looking for someone to share their feelings with or help with problem-solving.

Validate and affirm their experience. Keep the focus on them. When someone shares their experience with you, take them seriously and validate what they are saying. “Validation” is simply acknowledging someone else’s thoughts and feelings from their own perspective. It does not mean that you agree with everything they are sharing or that you would have a similar response in this situation.

Some examples of validating statements are:

  • “I understand that you are angry right now, that must be difficult.”
  • “This seems like a very stressful situation for you.”
  • “I can understand that this is very important to you.”

Keep your focus on the speaker's viewpoint of their situation. Instead of bringing in your own experiences or comparing them, try to restate what you have gathered from what they are saying without expressing your own opinion or giving advice.

Do not respond with statements that minimize how the other person is feeling or what they are going through, such as, “You’re just having a bad week,” or “I’m sure it’s nothing.” This may make it difficult for them to continue to conversation.

Be open-minded. Practice non-judgement. Remember, your focus is trying to understand the situation from the other person’s viewpoint, and criticism is not helpful in this moment. To be supportive of someone, put your personal opinions aside.

Each mental health condition, like all health conditions, has its own set of traits and behaviors. For instance, a person with anxiety may have difficulty focusing, or feel tired and having a hard time relaxing; those things may lead to being easily angered or annoyed. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have a hard time staying in the present moment; they may feel confused and afraid by flashbacks and have some memory loss.

An important part of being supportive is understanding how mental health conditions may affect someone. It’s okay if you don’t fully understand what they’re sharing or what they’re doing. It may be helpful to learn more about the information you've been told. Make sure that your information is coming from reliable sources, like NAMI and SAMHSA.

Ask how you can support them. Everyone has different ways of feeling supported by others. It’s always better to ask them what kind of support they need first – whether it’s providing space to share their feeling, sharing words of support and understanding, thinking together on possible solutions, or helping with an act of service (see list below).

Sometimes it can be difficult to accept support from others or to know what support looks like. This may lead them so say something like, “nothing, I’m fine.” You can offer up a few suggestions for things you would be willing to do.

For instance, you could offer to go with someone to help them take care of responsibilities like:

  • Walking their dog
  • Going to the grocery store
  • Helping them clean around their home
  • Bringing them food
  • Offering to watch their kids or the family members they care for
  • Simply spending time together

Let them know you’ll be there for them again. It can be a big relief for someone to share what they’ve been thinking about, however, mental health struggles do not usually get better with one conversation – it's an ongoing process. Let the person know they can reach out to you again if they are having a tough time or want to talk again. It’s okay to let them know when there are certain times or days that you aren’t available.

Be patient. There are times when someone’s mental health can be more difficult for them to manage than others. There is no timetable for when someone “should” feel better. Everyone’s journey and relationship with their mental health are different.

Someone struggling with their mental health may need some time before they feel ready to share with others about what they’re experiencing. It may also take some time for them to consider seeking additional support, such as therapy or social support groups. There are many factors that influence these decisions.

While mental health stigma can be a big barrier, it is not the only one. Additional factors like language and cultural differences, the cost of mental health services, transportation to appointments, and the time it takes to receive services can also make it difficult for people to get the support they need.

Be patient with them. Whether or not they feel ready to share their process with others, remind them that you care about them and will support them in the ways you can.

Know when more help is needed. You are one person and one source of support, and it can often take a community and professional help to help people who are struggling with mental health.

Don’t be afraid to encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional and offer to help them find a provider if needed.


    Below are a few lists that describe different factors that affect our mental health, and signs of mental health struggles. You do not need to experience everything on this list in order to reach out for help.


    • Experiencing financial, food or housing insecurity, or having trouble getting your basic needs met
    • Birth, adoption, or fostering of a child
    • A major illness or injury, or receiving a scary diagnosis
    • Ongoing COVID-19 stress or illnessThe death of a loved one
    • Ending a friendship, relationship or marriage
    • Leaving your home or community (moving, immigrating, seeking asylum)
    • Experiencing stress due to legal matters
    • Experiencing discrimination or stress in the workplace
    • Experiencing racism, sexism, homo-bi-transphobia or religious discrimination
    • Being exposed to violence in your neighborhood, or through media (television, radio, newspapers, social media)
    • Natural disasters like earthquakes, wildfires or floods
    • Living somewhere with community violence or war
    • Experiencing violence or harm directly


    • Feeling worried or afraid a lot of the time
    • A persistent sadness (two or more weeks), or not wanting to do thing with others
    • Bouts of panic or fear without knowing why
    • Feeling unhappy or not enjoying the things you usually do
    • Obsessive worry about the way you look or fear of gaining weight
    • Low self-esteem or not feeling comfortable in your own skin
    • Confused thinking or trouble concentrating
    • Major changes in mood, shifting from high highs to low lows
    • Often feeling angry or irritable
    • Seeing and/or hearing things that others do not
    • A fear that you are being watched or spied on by the government or a powerful person
    • Seriously thinking about hurting yourself or ending your life
    • Seriously thinking about hurting another person


    • Getting headaches, stomach aches, or other new aches and pains, or having those symptoms more often
    • Having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
    • Getting tired throughout the day or not having much energy
    • Eating more or less than usual
    • Trying to lose weight by not eating, throwing up or using laxatives
    • A decrease or increase in sex drive
    • Getting your period less often or other changes to your menstrual cycle
    • Getting sick more often


    • Wanting to be alone, avoiding friends and social activities
    • Needing to be with others constantly
    • Having more conflicts with your family or having relationship difficulties
    • Friends or family being affected by changes in your mood
    • Having a hard time understanding or relating to other people
    • Avoiding your usual activities because of worry or fear
    • Having a hard time getting out of bed, taking showers or otherwise taking care of yourself
    • Feeling so stressed out that it’s hard to do everyday activities
    • Using alcohol, drugs or tobacco to feel better
    • Taking dangerous risks
    • Missing work, school or other obligations