If watching someone you love struggle with a mental illness doesn’t feel right, it’s time to start a mental health intervention. Speaking up, and facilitating change is the only way to turn your situation around. Waiting isn’t going to make things better; unchecked mental illness can result in life or death situations.

Even if your loved one gets upset, taking action is the only way to help. Let’s discuss the key components of a mental health intervention, and, along the way, mention some tips on how to make the conversation as effective as possible.

Remember, if you and your loved one are facing an emergency situation, don’t waste any time. Call 911, 999 or whatever your emergency services number is if you believe there is an immediate risk for suicide, self-harm or violence.

The Key Components of a Successful Mental Health Interventions 

Getting an early start is crucial. That means listening to your intuition and not ignoring the early warning signs of mental illness. Although you may be nervous to get started, waiting for a crisis is not the best thing for your family.

If you’re noticing a lot of the following symptoms in your loved one, you can be sure that staging an intervention is the right thing to do.

  • Drastic Sleep Changes
    • Most mental illnesses lead to sleep disturbance, which is one of the easiest signs for family members to recognize. If your loved one is now sleeping much more or much less than usual, or if they are sleeping very irregularly, it’s possible that it’s due to mental illness.
  • Withdrawal
    • Has your loved one been isolating herself? Does he avoid friends and family that were once very important to him? What about abandoning important projects, hobbies, and interests?
  • Strange Thoughts and Beliefs
    • Listen to your loved one; does what he or she says make sense? If not, don’t write it off. Strange thoughts and beliefs are a leading symptom of various mental illnesses.
  • Nervousness
    • Anxiety is a crippling disorder and nervousness is the most obvious sign.
  • Changes in Eating
    • Look out for major appetite or eating changes. Eating too little, purging, or binge eating could mean that an eating disorder is present. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder can also cause major changes in eating.
  • Mood Changes
    • Does your loved one seem in distress? Are they anxious, sad, angry or volatile? These are signs to look out for.
  • Confusion
    • Mood changes may manifest in the form of a cloudy head. When we’re feeling very sad or anxious, it’s hard to think clearly. Take note if your loved one is very confused lately.


The Circle of Change 

Once you have decided to start the mental health intervention, it’s time to choose your partners. Confronting your loved one individually is not the most effective way to encourage change. Be sure to include at least two or three others in the conversation.

The circle of change is the group of people who will meet with your loved one and work together to encourage treatment. Choose the people who are closest to your loved one, those who know him/her best.

 The Invitation 

No one likes to be ambushed; that’s why successful mental health interventions begins with a welcoming invitation.

Once you have organized the circle of change, choose a time and comfortable place to have the conversation. Then, lovingly invite your loved one to join.

The Message

What we say during a mental health intervention makes all the difference. Encourage all members of the circle of change to take their time while crafting a loving, heartfelt message for your loved one. If you’re not sure where to begin, these are some strong elements to include in your message.

a) The reasons you have decided an intervention is necessary

b) Calmly describe the symptoms you have noticed in an understanding way. Do not attack, insult or belittle. Just state what you saw and why it’s concerning.

c) What you miss about his/her old self

d) Your concerns for the future if he/she does not get treatment

e) Express your love and desire to help. This is important. Make sure your loved one knows that this is not an attack or criticism, rather an attempt to make things better.

f) Ideas for a solution

The Next Steps

Before you have the family meeting, it’s important to be clear on what will happen next. The goals of an intervention include getting your loved one to recognize the problem, and, just as importantly, to accept treatment.

Depending on your unique situation, one or more of the following options may be appropriate.

a) Getting an initial consultation with a licensed professional

b) Ongoing psychotherapy

c) Inpatient stay at a Mental Health Facility

d) Joining a Support Group

Professional Help

Mental health interventions can be too overwhelming or complicated for families to do on their own. A professional interventionist can help in such circumstances and support and guide you during the process. They will have experience with difficult cases and know how to move forward if you and your family find yourselves hitting a wall.

Written by Chris Myers

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