Dealing with mental health issues is never easy. It’s even harder when the people around you are unsupportive. A lot of the time, people are worried about saying the wrong thing, so choose not to say anything at all or give unwanted advice. This leaves the person feeling even more isolated and alienated. A lot of mental health sufferers are as confused by you as to why they are struggling. The cure for mental health problems is not a simple answer. Please seek a medical professional if you suffer from mental health problems. The following advice are suggestions from people who have experienced what you’re going through.
If you’re unsure how to approach a friend or family member with mental health issues, follow these ten steps:
1) ‘How are you?’
It might seem obvious, but letting the person know that you care about their well-being is essential. Asking unloaded open questions allows them to say as much or as little as they like without added pressure.
2) ‘I’m here for you if and when you need me.’
Many mental health sufferers feel like a burden on their loved ones, preventing them from reaching out for support. Just letting them know that you want to be part of their support network will make them feel more comfortable to confide in you, which will, in turn, benefit their mental health.
3) ‘Do you want to go out for lunch?’
Don’t leave them out of social occasions just because they haven’t felt up to it before. Even if they choose not to take you up on your offer, they will feel wanted and valued, something which is often diminished when a person suffers mental health problems.
4) ‘I’m here to listen.’
Telling a person your hot take on their condition is rarely helpful, even when you have their best interests at heart. Leave the medical advice to a healthcare professional, support worker or carer, and act as a confidant instead. Listening without prejudice or assumption is likely to build more trust and leave the person feeling reassured.
5) ‘Let’s go for a walk.’
The connection between spending time in nature and good mental health is well documented. Inviting the person to go on a nature walk with you won’t completely cure their condition, but might alleviate some of the symptoms. This will help them realise that there are steps they can actively take to improve their mental health.
6) ‘Would you like me to come to the GP with you?’
Seeking medical help for mental health issues can be a huge hurdle when you’re suffering. By offering to accompany them in this step, whether merely sitting in the waiting room or being present for the appointment, you’ll provide invaluable support and comfort.
7) ‘You’re enough.’
A person suffering from mental health is likely to feel inadequate and incomplete. Let them know that their mental health does not impact on their worth and that you don’t see any less of them because of reasons beyond their control.
8) ‘Remember when we…’
Reminding them of fond memories can help light up the dark. People with mental health issues often get entrenched in how bad things are at that moment. Talking to them about happier times will help them gain a broader perspective and not just focus on the present negatives.
9) ‘Be kind to yourself.’
People struggling with mental health will usually be very hard on themselves, seeing their condition as a failure. This attitude can lead to self-neglect, as the person believes they are not worthy of care and attention. Encourage them to take necessary steps to look after themselves, even if that’s eating a balanced diet, getting out of bed or taking a shower.
10) ‘You will get through this.’
Bad mental health often feels never-ending. The person suffering will struggle to realise that their troubles can be, and often are, temporary. Remind them that their suffering isn’t permanent and you believe in their ability to get better.
In conclusion, empathise, be patient and listen. One in four adults will experience mental health problems each year in the UK. You have a good chance of dealing with it at some point in your life, be there in the same way that you’d want someone to be there for you in that situation.
If the mental health of someone you know is causing concern and is refusing to get help, contact a GP or local mental health services.