As I was watching our state championship high school basketball game, I couldn’t help but notice how enthusiastic and organized the supporters for each team were. I’ve seen this happen time and time again over the years in all different types of sports venues.
So I thought, “Why can’t we show this same level of enthusiasm in our support for people with mental health concerns (or any number of other personal challenges in life)? ”
Then it dawned on me. We can.
From a very early age, we teach our kids and teens how to root for their favorite sports teams. From the youngest kiddie teams to more formal teams in high school and college, learning how to support your favorite team is part of our culture, no matter where you live.
Then I started thinking about how we could translate what we already know and practice in rooting for our favorite sports teams into enthusiastic and unwavering support for people with mental health concerns.
It really looks pretty easy. Using skills you already have, here are 10 simple ways you can root for and support anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue.
1) Give immediate feedback
Just as we cheer when a player scores a goal or sinks a three-point basket, give immediate positive feedback to someone with a mental health concern when they show improvement or make progress toward their goals. Say “Great job!,” “I’m so proud of you,” “Way to go!,” or “Keep up the good work!”
2) Play fair
Great teams and fans know it’s important to play fair. This means showing respect and following the rules of sportsmanlike conduct. You can apply these principles to how you treat people with mental health concerns by being respectful and courteous to them. Also, don’t use inappropriate or demeaning labels or terms for mental illness that could cause them embarrassment, shame or harm.
3) Enjoy the moment
Part of the fun of supporting your favorite team is relishing the whole experience, such as wearing your team’s colors, enjoying the sights, sounds and food, and socializing with friends. Similarly, support someone with a mental health challenge by accompanying them to fun activities or events, sharing a meal, or just taking a walk with them in a beautiful outdoor space.
4) Show support when a setback occurs
It’s heart stopping when a player is injured on the field. But everyone stands and applauds as they are helped off the field. The same holds true when someone with a mental health concern encounters a significant setback and needs some help or extra attention to manage their pain, frustration or disappointment.
5) Stay until the end
The best fans stay until the game is over instead of heading out early. Show your support for people with mental health challenges by sticking around to offer a helping hand, especially when they have little or no support from others. Your steadfast assistance will not go unnoticed.
6) Celebrate the victories
Great sports fans go wild when their team wins a game. Similarly, show visible enthusiasm and give hearty praise and encouragement to folks with mental health concerns when they make progress, learn new skills, or show a reduction in their symptoms or distress.
7) Recover from the losses
Not every game ends with a win, and great fans know it’s important to shake off a loss and come back with a positive attitude. When your friend or loved one with a mental health issue has a disappointment or loss in their life, keep supporting them with your presence and reassurance that things will eventually turn around for the better.
8) Keep showing up
The most loyal fans always show up for all of the games. Remember to show up to support your friend or loved one with a mental health issue, and keep showing up on a regular basis. Let them know you’re there for them.
9) Winning isn’t everything
As we all know, the saying goes, “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” Sometimes people with mental health issues have unrealistic expectations of themselves and feel disappointed if they aren’t making progress as they had desired. Remind them that slow and steady progress is really more important than focusing solely on “winning” at some goal they have identified.
10) There’s always another season
Even if this season didn’t turn out well for the team, savvy sports fans know there’s always next year to rebuild, regroup and aim for a better outcome. People with mental health challenges can also have a “bad season” when things aren’t going well. It’s vital to keep providing your support and to gently remind them that a new season is just around the corner, full of hope, promise, and the potential for a new victory.
See, you do have the knowledge and skills to be a great supporter for someone with a mental health challenge. Now it’s up to you to get out there and show them you’re on their team. Go team go!
Here’s a question: What are some ways you can show increased support for friends or loved ones dealing with mental health issues? Please leave a comment. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!