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Have a talk before crisis hits.
Have a talk before crisis hits. / Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Persuading a loved one to seek mental health treatment can be difficult. But with one in five Americans experiencing some form of mental illness in 2010, you may find yourself having that very conversation.

“You can call upon that established relationship and all the feelings and history and the caring that’s in it,” says psychiatrist Mark Komrad, author of You Need Help! “Mental illness is often an afterthought...until a major tragedy comes, and unfortunately we end up living from crisis to crisis.”

After recognizing that a person needs counseling, set a time and place to talk, he says. Tell the person ahead of time that you want to discuss a difficult topic. “Creating a little bit of anticipation is not a bad thing,” Komrad says. “It actually allows them to be a little more receptive.”

Focus on your concern instead of pointing a finger at the problem, he adds. Discuss how worried or anxious you are. When you reveal your own helplessness, a person can be more responsive to the “do it for me” approach.

If a one-on-one approach doesn’t work, gather allies to show their compassion for the person in need. Allies can be family members, or trusted figures.

In some cases, the task may demand outside help. If a person is dangerous, Komrad advises relying on law enforcement to aid in getting your loved one the right help.

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