Managing mental health: How to support an affected loved one
With so much going on in our everyday lives, it’s easy to overlook those who are struggling – whether it’s people in our community sleeping rough on the streets or residents trying to minimise the damage of increasing flood crises.
But when an issue strikes closer to home, such as a family member or loved one struggling with mental health issues, it’s important to take steps to support them through these difficult times. Here are some strategies you can apply to be there for a loved one in need.
Be a proactive supporter
While it may be tough at first, developing a positive mindset can help you meet the challenges of supporting a friend with mental health issues head-on. When you are calm and confident about how to approach delicate situations, that will be communicated in your words and body language. Ways to be a more proactive supporter for your loved one include:
- Researching as much as you can about getting help for mental illness, including information on the specific issue and possible treatments.
- Contacting support groups for carers, if necessary.
- Signing up for specialised mental health first aid training.
- Accepting that you can’t control the illness yourself, and that sometimes the level of support your loved one needs will be beyond your capacity to provide.
Recognise your own limitations
When you are supporting someone with mental health issues – especially if they are a family member or close friend – it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to do everything yourself. But it’s important for your own mental wellbeing that you know your limits when it comes to helping someone with mental health problems.
Be realistic about the level of care you can provide, and be honest with both your loved one and any carers or mental health professionals who may be involved in their treatment. This will not only release the burden you have been carrying on your own, but it will also ensure everyone is clear about their roles and responsibilities in providing support for the mental health of your loved one.
4 strategies for supporting a loved one with mental health issues
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “How can I help someone with mental health issues?” and realised you don’t have any clear strategies for how you would handle such a situation, the good news is that you can develop very simple daily plans to follow. Here are four ideas from the Better Health Channel for how to support someone struggling with mental health:
- Be predictable in your routines: Set regular times to get up, to eat breakfast, to go outside, etc. Also introduce small changes every so often to prevent boredom from repetitive days.
- Break down everyday tasks into small, manageable steps: Speak to your loved one about some of the daily tasks, such as self-care, that they struggle with. Then work with them to break down those tasks into bite-sized jobs for the day.
- Be a motivator for the unmotivated: There will be very hard days, but it’s important that you are proactive and motivated when supporting your loved one, as your encouragement and willingness to include them in activities is what can start to change their perspective on things.
- Support your loved one to make their own decisions: This is often a very difficult thing to do when a person with mental health issues starts to spiral, but be resilient and resist the temptation to make choices for them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It’s vital that you don’t ignore the warning signs of severe mental health problems. If your family member or friend is displaying alarming symptoms, then the sooner they receive appropriate treatment the better. You can either encourage your loved one to see a doctor for a mental health assessment, or if you fear for their – or your own – safety then make an appointment yourself to discuss your worries.
It’s never easy seeing someone you love fall into the vicious spiral of mental health issues, but you can be a rock for them in their time of need. To find out more about how you can support those who need it most in our community, visit our blog or learn about our range of initiatives.