Supporting a friend or family member who is struggling can be challenging. Sometimes, that loved one is going through a difficult period in their life and not coping well. Other times, they might be dealing with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression that are causing them distress. As a support person, you can see that your loved one needs some extra help, but you might feel unsure how to speak with them about it. It can be hard to find the right words and know what to say, without offending them or overstepping. That’s why our mental health team has prepared this guide for how to help someone you love get the right mental health support.
- Look out for the signs that they need mental health support
All of us go through tricky periods in our lives, and experience some feelings of being down, anxious or stressed. However, sometimes those feelings can become extreme and overwhelming, negatively impacting our lives and relationships. Some signs that your loved one might need mental health support include: changes in their mood or personality, difficulty coping or seeming constantly upset, them telling you that they are not well or always venting about their problems. If your friend or family member is acting this way, it may begin to concern you. You may feel worried about them, but also unsure how to help, if their problems are serious or complicated. It’s important to trust your ‘gut-feeling’, if it is telling you that they need some professional help.
- Start the conversation
Although it might feel awkward or scary to ask your loved one about their mental health, it may in fact be the best thing you can do for them! A simple question like “are you okay?” is an effective way to allow them to open up, which can then lead to a conversation about getting some professional mental health support. It is important to not rush this conversation though. When you ask someone if they are okay, you have to then be willing to listen, and give them a safe space to share. If they are unwilling to open up, or avoid the question, it might be helpful to share your own experience or perspective. For example, you can say; “I’ve noticed you seem a bit down lately” or “I care about you, and feel worried because I can see you aren’t okay.” Often, when people are struggling with mental health issues, they don’t realise how serious they are, and may be surprised to learn that others have noticed. By starting the conversation, you can help your loved one acknowledge their problem, and get help sooner rather than later.
- Provide emotional and practical support
If your loved one does open up to you, it can be overwhelming to know what to say or do. A good way to start is by reminding them that you care and are there to support them. However, it’s important to recognise your own limits, and remind them that there are trained health professionals, counsellors and psychologists who have the tools and resources to help them. A practical way you can support them is by offering to make a mental health referral, or take them to their GP. If they are not ready for this step then remember you can check-in with them again in the future and keep encouraging them to get the right support.
We hope this guide helps you to have a conversation with someone in your life who might need mental health support. If you would like further information, please contact our Co.As.It. mental health team at (02)9564 0744, or you can refer yourself or a friend (with their permission) to our psychologists at firstname.lastname@example.org for free counselling services.