When a loved one is struggling it can be a time of readjustment for everyone.
Mental health illness doesn’t just affect one person. It causes a ripple effect that touches everyone surrounding that person. Family members and friends often feel helpless, not knowing how to reach out or what to do to help their suffering loved one.
When a loved one is struggling it can be a time of readjustment for everyone. Being there and wanting to help already means you are helping. Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone can help somebody with mental illness
If you are desperate to help but unsure where to begin here are some useful tips on things you could try and do.
Are you not fully informed on mental illness and what it means for your friend? A really great first step in helping your friend is to find out more about it. Having a better understanding of mental illness will help you better understand what they’re going through.
The best way to understand a subject is to research it and ask a lot of questions. With depression and anxiety, asking questions is critical because each person’s experience is so different. Chances are that your friend is not going to voluntarily cough up the information that you need, because they feel too ashamed of the symptoms and afraid they will be judged.
Some questions to consider:
- When did you first start to feel bad?
- Can you think of anything that may have triggered it?
- Do you have suicidal thoughts?
- Is there anything that makes you feel better?
- What makes you feel worse?
- Are you under stress?
You know your sister, friend, brother, or father better than most mental health professionals, so help them solve the riddle of their symptoms. Together consider what could be at the root of it: physiologically, emotionally, or spiritually. Where is the disconnect?
If you do one thing, listen
If your friend feels like talking, ask them how they’re doing. Try asking questions like, “What can I do to help?” and “What do you find helpful?” When you want to bring up a sensitive issue with a friend, try to choose a time and place when you’re both comfortable and relaxed. It’s a good idea to avoid talking to them about it if they’re upset.
Take their feelings seriously
If someone is suffering from a mental illness, it isn’t possible for them just to ‘snap out of it’, ‘cheer up’ or ‘forget about it’. When you listen to them and validate their feelings by saying things like ‘That must be really hard’ or ‘I’m here when you want to talk’, they’ll know you’re taking their feelings seriously.
Encourage them to seek out a support group
It doesn’t matter what the illness is, a person needs support in her or his life to fully recover: people with whom they can vent and swap horror stories, people who are going through something similar and can remind them that they are not alone even though their symptoms make them feel that way.
Research shows that support groups aid the recovery of a person struggling with depression and decrease chances of relapse
Let them know they won't always feel this way
“You won’t always feel this way.” A simple statement of truth that holds the most powerful healing element of all, hope. As a friend or family member, your hardest job is to get your friend or brother or dad or sister to have hope again: to believe that they will get better. Once their heart is there, their mind and body will follow shortly.
Take care of yourself
It can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting and upsetting to deal with someone who is experiencing mental illness. You can only be there to support someone if you look after yourself first. Remember to do the following to make sure your own wellbeing is looked after.
- Monitor your mood. You might be really worried about a friend, but it's important that you also monitor your own mood and stress levels. This could include rating your mood out of 10 each day, to track how you're doing.
- Don't give up the things you enjoy. Always make sure you leave yourself time to do your favourite things.
- Set boundaries. You aren’t going to be able to be there for your friend all of the time. Set some limits around what you’re willing, and not willing, to do.
- Ask for support. It’s important that you’re getting your own emotional support. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling.
Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.