Helping or Hindering? How to Support A Loved One with a Mental Health Issue
1 in 6 people experienced a common mental health problem in the last week. 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. If you’re not that 1 in 4, then chances are you certainly know someone close to you who has struggled.
It’s difficult for anyone to find out that a loved one or close friend is struggling with their mental health, as so often it can’t be physically seen. Some people can hide how they’re feeling so well that it can come as a shock to those around them that they are having some problems with their mind.
Despite increasing awareness around it, mental health still carries a stigma, and some people just don’t understand it.
If you have a loved one who is battling with their mental health, then here’s some tips on how you can help them, and not hinder their recovery:
1. Listen & Educate
It can be challenging for someone to open up to you about how they're truly feeling. Some mental health issues are mild, whilst others are profoundly complex and unpleasant. If a loved one decides to talk to you about their thoughts and feelings, don’t judge, lend an ear. Sometimes the most significant step of all is them admitting how they are feeling to someone, especially if they’ve been battling with their problems alone for a while.
Letting them know they are not alone is crucial.
Listen intently, be patient and educate yourself on what they may be dealing with. Psycho-education plays a big role in the recovery of that person, so it can only help you to understand their issues too. If possible, try and encourage them to seek professional help, although this isn’t always welcomed straight away as it can make people feel very uncomfortable.
2. Be careful with your vocabulary.
The point here is not to tip-toe around this person as if walking on eggshells, that makes your communication with them unnatural, but to be aware of phrases or words that are so often intertwined with the mental health world. An example would be “That’s so OCD”, which is essentially a throwaway comment in response to an obsessive act. So often though it’s not OCD, it’s just wanting things to be a certain way. This type of comment can be quite uncomfortable for someone who may be genuinely struggling with OCD. The same goes for comments like “She’s so depressing!”. It’s about having an awareness of the language you use around mental health, in particular to the person who may be struggling with it.
3. Remember you’re not their therapist.
You want to support them, and help them in any way you can, we understand that. But you cannot fix them; they must want to help themselves. Lending an ear, reading up on the problem at hand and encouraging therapy are all helpful ways to understand their struggle better. Still, if they start coming to you for constant reassurance and relief, it could end up hindering their recovery. There’s a fine line where this point is concerned as we don’t advise turning a blind eye to their emotional turmoil, but they also cannot rely on you solely to make them feel better. It’s important your relationship with them stays as it was, or they could become a burden in your life, which could then be detrimental to your own emotional wellbeing. Remember to look out for yourself too.
4. Spot the signs
If the person in question has opened up to you about how they’re feeling, then overtime you’re likely to pick up on signs that portray how their mental state is. For example, they may stop responding to your texts, or they may be irritable and on edge around you or lack total energy for simple daily tasks. These can act as warning signs that they may be in a difficult place right now, and you should offer your support where necessary. Suppose you’re noticing that they are struggling to go to work, look after their kids properly and keep up personal hygiene. In that case, it’s crucial to encourage seeking professional help as it clearly is affecting their day-to-day lives.
5. Don’t treat them differently
They already feel uncomfortable, confused, sometimes misunderstood, treating them any differently will only make them feel worse as if they are an actual burden to you. Often people who struggle with their mental health are disassociated from reality and their lives a bit blurry, so they really need normality when it comes to stable relationships. They will pick up on any change of treatment, so where possible, carry on communicating with them as you would if there was no mental health issue present. It also helps to ground them and bring a sense of ‘normal’ to their unpleasant situation. Maybe be a little extra patient too.
Seeking further help:
If someone's mental health problems are affecting their daily life, they may benefit from further support. Tell them they have taken a vital first step by talking to you, and that it's now important they speak to someone professional.
At Efficacy, we treat a range of emotional and psychological problems. All our therapists are BABCP accredited, meaning we offer the highest possible standard of CBT therapy. Get in touch today to find out more.
Real therapy. Real results.