The Anxiety Files: How to Support Someone With a Mental Health Illness
Today is World Mental Health Day and while I usually do posts about my mental health and how to help yourself, but today I wanted to make a post for those who may have someone in their lives that need support. Sometimes it can be difficult when there’s someone in your life who is going through a tough time and you don’t know what to do to support them. Odds are you are not a professional, but there are some things you can do in order to give some support to those who need it.
Usually, before speaking to a professional someone who is experiencing a mental health problem will speak to their loved ones first meaning that the support you can offer can be very valuable. There’s different types of support you can offer such as emotional and practical support.
If someone tells you that they are going through a difficult time with thoughts and feelings, it can be complicated in knowing what you should do or say, but there’s no training needed when it comes to supporting someone.
- Listen – If you simply give someone the space to talk and listen to what they have to say and how they feel can be a major help alone. If they find it difficult, let them know you’ll be there for them when they’re ready.
- Stay calm – It can often be upsetting to hear someone you care about is distressed and going through a hard time, but you need to try and stay calm. This is important as it will make your friend or family member feel calmer, too, showing them that they can talk to you without openly upsetting you.
- Be Patient – You may feel the need to find help immediately or know more details about how they are feeling and the thoughts they are having, but you need to be able to allow them to set the pace for seeking the support themselves.
- Offer reassurance – it can feel lonely and scary seeking help, but reassuring someone by letting them know they are not alone and you are there to help can really be of a great use.
- Don’t make assumptions – Your perspective may be of use to your loved one, but please don’t try to assume that you know what the cause is behind their feelings or what will help.
- Keep in social contact – A great part of the emotional support you offer could be to keep things as normal as possible. A good idea would be including your friend or family member in social events or talking about other parts of your lives.
There’s also more practical ways that you can help and offer support to someone.
- Look for useful and helpful information – Sometimes when seeking help, someone may feel worried about making the right choice or feeling as though they have a lack of control over the situation. There’s lots of information around that can be of use such as online, in your local library or even an NHS service such as the GP or hospital. There’s also some great resources on the Mind website about getting involved in decisions and making yourself heard which would be useful to use for research.
- Help make a list of questions – There may be some questions that the person to ask their doctor or points to bring up. Help them by writing them down in an order which makes sense, such as the most important point first.
- Help organise the paperwork – keeping paperwork can be difficult when you’re already facing a hard time, so helping them find a safe place to keep their notes, prescriptions and records of appointments can be of great use.
- Attend appointments with them – If the person you’re helping wants you to, going to appointments can be really useful – even if you’re just in the waiting room it can be quite reassuring.
- Offer to help with any specific practical tasks – This could vary from offering them a lift to their appointment, taking over a chore or household task or arranging childcare for them – anything they may need a helping hand with.
- Learn more about the problem they are experiencing – learning more about the condition will be of use of helping you think about other ways to support them. Mind have great resources on their website which offers an array of information about different types of mental health problems and pages on what friends and family can do to help in each case.
Sometimes there can be emergency situations where the above isn’t going to help enough or be of instant use. There could be times where your loved one need to seek help urgently, such as experiencing suicidal feelings and feel as they may act on them or are behaving that’s putting themselves or someone else at immediate, serious risk of harm. In this situation, as long as you feel safe to do so, you should stay with them and help by seeking the right help – here’s a useful guide to follow in the event of a crisis.
Something that a lot of people tend to forget to do something very important when helping someone in these kinds of situations and that is looking after themselves. Taking care of yourself is just as important as any of the suggested above. It can be a very stressful situation and so you need to make sure you look after your own wellbeing in order to help others.
It’s important to remember to take a break when needed. If you feel overwhelmed by supporting someone or that it’s taking up a lot of time or energy, taking time for you will help you feel more refreshed. Talking to someone you trust about how you’re feeling is also great, but remember to be careful about how much information you share about the person you are supporting. Don’t forget to be realistic about what you can do to help someone and don’t take too much on. Your support is really valuable, but it’s up to your loved one to seek support for themselves. Remember – small and simple things can help and just being there for them is more than likely helping a lot.
I hope this post is of use to you. Don’t forget there is a lot of different resources out there – I highly recommend checking out Mind as they have an umbrella of different support and information. Remember, you don’t have to suffer – especially not alone.