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Supporting someone with mental health and how to look after yourself

Supporting someone who is suffering with poor mental health can be difficult. It isn’t nice seeing the people we care about struggling and becoming unwell. It can and does impact the strength of personal and professional relationships.

So, how can you help? Here are some tips which will help you support a friend, loved one or colleague who are suffering with mental health issues and also what you can do look after yourself.

  • Anxiety and depression can present itself in different ways. A person can be irritable; show anger/passive aggressive/short/overreact to things they wouldn’t normally. Try not to take it personally and be patient. When a person feels anxiety etc they cannot control emotions and it sometimes occupies every space in their minds.

  • When a person feels anxious or depressed (or a combination) it is exhausting. They may not be doing anything physical, however their mind is in overdrive which can be draining and will translate into physical symptoms. Be compassionate, be accepting that it is the illness causing this response and not the person.

  • Anxiety is triggered by different things; sometimes things that the person isn’t consciously aware of. Suggest that they get professional support. There are also lots and lots of free resources that you could maybe try with them. Knowing they are not alone making the world of difference. At first they may not want to seek support, just remember it is important for them to do this at their own pace; the feelings a person has with anxiety and depression can be extremely frightening.

  • Sometimes a person will retreat. It is important that at this point you don’t give up on them. Keep sending out invites to night/days out, suggest maybe just the two of you go for a walk (or something you know they enjoy doing). Try not to judge, this is something they really do not want to experience.

  • Don’t tell a person suffering with mental health to:

    • Pull themselves together, others have it worse than them – they will know this and saying to them just compounds the situation

    • Stop worrying – instead ask them if they would like to talk through their worries (and all you need to do is listen)

  • If someone you know is experiencing a panic attack them try to:

    • Stay calm

    • If you know they have techniques that help them suggest they do those now (breathing, changing state, doing something to pull them out of the moment etc). Maybe do them together

    • Let them know you are here for them and with them, the thoughts and feelings will pass

  • Find out as much as you can about their mental health illness. It will help you understand a little more about what they are going through and it shows you care (which counts for so much if you are struggling).

  • Talk to them about what they are going through. Ask them how the mental health illness affects them. Find out what makes them feel better.

Living with someone who suffers with mental illness can affect you also in ways that you are not aware of. It is so important for you to look after your own mental health so that you are able to continue to support the people in your life. Make sure that you:

  • Share the load, it’s not just up to you to provide day to day care. If it is a personal relationship, ask friends and family to step up and help (suggest things that you know work). If it’s a professional relationship, maybe suggest that the person struggling share this with others.

  • Ensure that you have boundaries, and you don’t take on too much otherwise you will also suffer. Decide what your limits are and stick to them.

  • Make sure that you also have someone to talk to, so you are not holding onto any unwanted and unhelpful emotions.

  • Make sure you have your own mental wellbeing regime so that you are keeping on top of your own mental health.

Anxiety can be debilitating, especially if you are unsure why it is affecting you so much. Getting help is so important and there is so much help now. If you want any suggestions on techniques that might help or just want a 10 minute chat please contact me and I will gladly help.

Much Love Jo xxxx

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