Watching someone you care about struggle with mental illness can be difficult. We often want to help but are unsure of the best way to support them. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, however that doesn’t mean we can’t help someone through difficult times. Here are three small but very helpful ways to show that you care…
Ask them how they’re feeling
This is a great first step to supporting someone who is struggling, but it can also be a hard one to do. Asking someone about their depression, anxiety or another mental health issue can feel daunting. You might be worried that you won’t know how to respond once they do open up. However, all you need to do is provide a listening ear for them to voice their feelings to. You’re not expected to have all the answers – showing that you care and want to support them is more than enough.
When asking someone how they’re feeling, it’s important to remember that clarity is key. The way you phrase the question should make it clear that you’re addressing their mental health issues and how they’re coping. “I’m worried about you; you seem to be feeling quite down lately” or “have you been feeling anxious recently?” are good examples of how to open up a conversation about their mental health issues.
Once you have asked someone about how they’re feeling, you might find that they don’t open up immediately. After all, mental illness is a difficult subject to talk about for a lot of people. It may take a few more questions to get them to feel comfortable enough to confide in you, so it’s important to be patient and empathetic if this is the case.
Once your loved one has begun opening up about how they’re feeling, it’s important to give them the time to talk honestly about their experiences and worries. It might be helpful for you to ask questions so you can get a better grasp of what they’re thinking or feeling, but ultimately you should be looking to simply provide a space where they feel comfortable, at ease and genuinely listened to.
Throughout this step, it’s worth remembering that you are not a psychologist and you are not expected to have solutions for your loved one’s mental health issues. It’s natural to want to suggest ways to make your loved one feel better. However, this might make them feel like they are being told what to do rather than listened to. Try and resist the urge to be helpful, and instead show that you’re eager to simply understand how they’re feeling.
Encourage them to seek professional help
While offering your support to someone who is experiencing mental illness is a great thing to do, ultimately the best type of help they can get is from a trained professional. Once you have given them a chance to tell you about how they’re feeling, it’s a good idea to ask them whether they have seen a psychologist before or if they have ever thought about seeing one. They might have some questions about what professional help actually is. Some common ones are, does it work? What will it cost? What sort of help would be best for me? Is there anything I can do in the short-term? Take a look at our blogs before you have the conversation. This way, you’ll be more confident about suggesting the idea – and they’ll be more confident about giving it a go!
Whatever their answer may be, this will open up a discussion that can encourage them towards seeking professional help. If they are ready to begin therapy sessions, Ok To Talk can help them find a psychologist who is a right match for their needs.