Supporting Someone Who Takes Medicines for a Mental Health Condition

Skip Navigation

Getting Started

Treatment for a mental health condition often includes medicine along with counseling. Medicine may help relieve symptoms so someone can get more benefit from counseling. But some people may struggle with taking these medicines. It often takes time to find the right dose and the medicine that works the best. Sometimes people forget to take their medicine. And some people may avoid taking the medicine because of the side effects.

If someone close to you takes medicine for a mental health condition, they may ask you for support. Here are some things you can do to help.

  • Learn about the medicine.

    Understand how to take the medicine as prescribed. Also learn about side effects and signs that the medicine is working.

  • Remind the person to take the medicine exactly as their doctor says.

    If they often forget to take the medicine, using a pillbox, an alarm, or a pill reminder app may help. They could also try taking the medicine at the same time every day.

  • Encourage them to talk to their doctor if they want to stop taking the medicine.

    They shouldn't stop taking the medicine without talking to their doctor. If they're having problems taking the medicine, they should let their doctor know.

  • Help look for signs that the medicine is working.

    Some medicines start working quickly. Others may take several weeks. You could keep a journal of any changes that the person notices.

  • Help watch for side effects.

    If side effects are bothersome, the doctor may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine.

  • Accept that they may not take the medicine.

    Manage how you react if they don't take the medicine. For example, try to avoid arguing. And try not to focus too much on the medicine. Instead, focus on the things you enjoy about the person.

  • Help plan for a relapse.

    In a relapse, symptoms return. This can happen even if medicine is taken as prescribed.

  • Watch for signs of self-harm or suicidal behavior.

    Warning signs include talking about things like suicide, feeling hopeless, or being a burden to others.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.


Current as of: June 24, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.