How to talk to a loved one about getting mental health treatment

If someone you love is battling mental health or behavioural problems, you are probably well aware that it’s an incredibly sensitive and emotionally charged topic. If it is clear to you or others that your loved one requires inpatient care or intensive day therapy, you may not know how to begin to broach the topic with them.

With this in mind, we have prepared a guide to preparing you for the conversation.

Be kind, empathetic and loving

Whether it’s an addiction or a mental health condition, it’s important to remember that ultimately, your loved one is suffering from a disease. A disease means your loved one has little to no control over what this is doing to their mental and physical state.

Your loved one is likely to have felt a large amount of pain, trauma and other heavy emotions. It’s important to remember to approach the conversation with compassion, NOT with anger, blame or judgement.

There’s a problem, so let’s focus on creating a solution rather than blaming them or another cause, or unleashing your anger and frustration.

Hold them accountable for their own life

Although it’s important to broach the subject calmly and gently, it doesn’t mean you should sugarcoat the situation at hand. It’s important that you make your loved ones see that they are in control of their life and mental health and that right now they are in a very vulnerable position and need help.

It’s very likely your loved one is very afraid to admit they need intensive care, therefore will most likely cover up,  minimise or downplay their situation. It’s important that you stay strong in your resolve, and aid them in seeking treatment for their issues.

Explain to them that unless they seek help, all areas of their life are likely to experience turmoil.

Be honest

It’s important that although you face the conversation in a gentle manner, you are also honest. The troubles plaguing your loved one has probably grown to affect all aspects of their life – from work, finances and relationships, likely including the one they share with you. For example, addiction is known as a ‘family disease’, as it’s likely to affect all members close to the loved ones, wreaking havoc on the family unit. For addicts, most of the time they have deluded themselves into downplaying their addiction and thinking it has affected anyone.

It’s important that you open up to your loved ones, and make them understand their behaviour or issues that have hurt you/others, as well as themselves. Make them see it’s time to take action before the problems get bigger.

Take charge with a plan

Before you have this conversation with your loved one, it’s good to do some research and formulate a plan. You shouldn’t prompt them to do the research themselves, as they will likely be resistant to treatment. Have some pre-prepared solutions (physical phone numbers and websites) on hand to present to your loved one. Those enquiries should be made immediately, in an effort to keep the positive momentum going.

The most important aspect of this conversation is to ensure that you follow up with your loved one. The ultimate goal will result in getting them to treatment and fast. The sooner they seek professional help, the sooner work can be made to help manage their current issues. Leaving them unaccountable may leave more room for them to slip into destructive patterns or coping mechanisms.

Nightingale Hospital offers inpatient, day patient and outpatient care for a variety of mental health and behavioural issues. For more information, contact or contact +44 (0)20 7535 7700.