Problems arise when a person with mental health problems starts relying too heavily on a supporter.

I’m ashamed to say that I speak as someone who has been guilty of excessive contact with people who were once dear to me. I speak as someone who has been deeply hurt by those who had at one time given me the greatest support I could have asked for. I also speak as someone who developed a neediness for these friends and whose difficulties with me could have been handled in a better way.

That was a long time ago, but I still suffer from the fallout.

Since that time, I’ve learned many lessons—lessons that I hope will help you, the reader and supporter, to avoid the pitfalls that can cause such relationships to be broken in a most painful way. Lives can be irreparably damaged.

How could  you, as a person who wants to be supportive, prevent this from happening?

When beginning a relationship with someone who has mental health issues, it’s natural for you to want to be a good Christian and show God’s love. Sometimes people go overboard, giving them more time and attention than what is needed or advisable.

In response to this kindness, the person eventually starts over-relying on you. It’s understandable. It feels good to be shown such love. Although this might be acceptable for a while, a time might come when your patience breaks, and you can no longer find it in yourself to be kind. This too is understandable.

In exceptionally serious cases such a situation should not be allowed to continue.  Long before such unkindness sets in, you need to, in all honesty, tell the person you’re supporting how you feel about having such frequent contact with them. What is it doing to your life? Be clear and direct. It’s the kind thing to do.

How can a person know if they’re not told? To avoid speaking to them establishes a kind of stigma.

Go to God, as you always should in such a tough situation. You will need his help to get up the courage be honest. Without God, and feeling the way you do, you might find it hard to treat this suffering person with compassion. Yet it was not totally their fault that their need developed. They should not be blamed.

Remind them that they are God’s child. Remind yourself of this.

Take them aside and alert them to what’s in the Bible to reassure them that God loves them and will be with them. Gently remind them that you are not a person they should rely on. God is the only one they can trust to be their forever friend. They will be comforted, especially when they hear such a message coming from you. If there is to be a change in the amount of time spent together, at least the change will be made on a friendly basis.

Help them pray through the pain that will most likely follow: “Help me Lord to relax and let go of the pain, leaving it with you. Help me to hunger for, and accept, your lavish love. Given time I know I will find healing. Little by little you will heal me.”

The Lord reassures us:

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,

Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)


(I’m not a professional caregiver. Since 2006, I have given spiritual support as a peer to people living with all sorts of mental health issues. I write from the point of view of someone who has been there and understands—someone who wants to share the faith she has found in God.)

This has been Part 5 of the series In the Name of Jesus. Go to Part 6 – Are You Listening?