Did you know that 1 in 6 people experienced a mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in the past week? (Source) And thanks to lockdown, this stat will now be much higher. Looking after our mental health, as a nation, has never been more important.
This World Mental Health Day (10th October), it’s important for us to not only look after and be kind to ourselves, but our friends, family and colleagues too.
Supporting someone with a mental health condition can be really daunting. You might not know what to say or how to broach the topic with a loved one, but don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The below might not fit with every occasion, or every person, but it gives you an idea of some things you can do to try and help a loved one out.
1.Let them know you’re there for them
Even though you might not fully understand what they’re going through or what’s going on, just letting them know you’re there will help. They will feel reassured to know that you care and that you’re there if they need you. The person struggling might be angry or upset and might direct this at you but try, if you can, not to take it to heart. They’re going through a tough time and won’t mean to take it out on you. I know it’s easier said than done.
When I was going through some rough times, my family and friends let me know that they were there for a chat, a hug or a cuppa if I needed it. This reassurance gave me the space I needed to try and decipher exactly how I was feeling and how I could explain this to someone else.
2.Keep an eye out for any worrying social media posts
Social media can be an outlet for someone who’s struggling so if you notice one of your friends or followers posting things that suggest they’re feeling anxious, depressed or lost, drop them a message. They might be feeling like no one cares or that no one is there for them. This may or may not be true but just messaging to check in might make them feel heard.
3.Ask them ‘how are you?’
This is such a simple little question but one that could see so many answers. These days, when we’re apart from loved ones, asking someone how they’re doing goes a long way. If they live alone, for example, they might not have spoken to anyone in days so might want to tell you everything that’s been happening. Or, because they haven’t spoken to anyone in a while, they might struggle with what to say. Be patient. You can always lead on from this question with ‘what have you been doing?’ or ‘how have you been feeling?’ to try and get them to chat to you. Whatever you decide, it will be much appreciated.
4.Do a little research
If you’re worried about a family member, friend or colleague and aren’t too sure where to start with helping them, take a look at the ‘Supporting someone with a mental health problem‘ on the Mind website and ‘How to support someone with a mental health problem‘ on the Mental Health Foundation site. These resources are so useful and are a great place to start. These sites also have a list of mental health conditions and how you can recognise these to help you in your research. Being able to understand and let your loved one know that you’ve been doing some research might help inform the conversations you can have, making you feel more prepared.
5.Do something kind for them
The theme of World Mental Health Day 2020 is kindness. Doing something nice for someone who might be struggling might really make their day. Treating them to a coffee, sending a little ‘thinking of you’ card or asking if they’d like to go for a socially distanced stroll are nice ways to show you care. If they’re in a different lockdown area to you, give them a call or see if they want to video call. People struggling with anxiety might not like this option so see which they prefer.
6.Listen to what they tell you
Active listening is so important when chatting to someone with a mental health problem. ‘Active’ listening is when you fully concentrate, take in everything you’re being told and respond appropriately. For example, look at the person speaking directly, nod occasionally and use encouraging sounds like ‘yes’ and ‘mm hmm’. This will show someone that you’re interested in what they’re telling you. If you have to do this over video chat, make your actions a bit bigger so they can see you. Try not to be judgemental and be honest if someone is asking for your opinion. If they’re asking, they really value you and your response.
The fact that you’re reading this and want to help is absolutely amazing. You don’t know how big a difference you’re going to make to someone’s life.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, the following charities are a fantastic source of information and support:
The Samaritans (Phone: 116 123)
Mind (Phone: 0300 123 3393)