Seeing a loved one struggling with a brain health challenge is difficult. And it can be hard to know how to help and support them. Here are some things to consider when trying to support someone who is struggling.

Know the warning signs of brain health challenges, eg a loved one becomes withdrawn and there are changes in their behaviour.


Talk about it

The most important and most difficult step is to start the conversation.
Show your concern and openness to be there for them. You don’t have to be an expert and you don’t need to have the answers.
Reassure them and use ‘I’ statements when talking. For example, ‘I am concerned about you …’.
Be patient and don’t judge their feelings or thoughts. And most importantly, listen to them.
Reframe the thinking: if it were diabetes, would they seek help?

Learn about mental health conditions and treatments

Learn all you can about brain health challenges.
The more you know about symptoms, challenges and treatments, and what to expect, the better you can support your loved one.
Read our Brain Health and Brain Strain pages for more information.


How to address possible barriers

Would transport be a barrier? Do you need to help research therapists?
Try to anticipate and help address possible barrier to them seeking and getting help.


Ensure you practice self-care

It’s important to take care of yourself too.
Offer support and reach out for help if you need it for yourself.
Contact the South African Depression Support Group for more information on support groups you can join.

If you feel your loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others, contact one of the crisis/suicide/helplines. 

Get help here.


Supporting a loved one who is reluctant to accept treatment

Learn how to support a family member or friend who is unwilling to seek help for mental health.


Know what the warning signs of brain health challenges so that you know when someone may be experiencing a brain health challenge.