How to help someone suffering from mental health issues
Mental health is finally getting the recognition it deserves, although there’s much to be done in educating people about the signs, symptoms and triggers of this debilitating condition.
The number of people experiencing depression and anxiety has sharply risen during this coronavirus pandemic, as some can find it overwhelming.
Experts say various factors can contribute to mounting pressures during this time, making those suffering from depression go further into a shell and withdraw from social life.
Here’s how to support people during these trying times.
Know when something is wrong
Experts say symptoms of mental health conditions can vary, which often makes it difficult to recognise when someone might be struggling.
Sometimes, a small change in behaviour or temperament could indicate an individual is suffering from a condition such as depression, as Kelly Feehan, service director at wellbeing charity CABA, explains.
“Depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all disorder, which means recognising it isn’t always straightforward,” she tells The Independent.
Friends and family educating themselves about the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses can greatly help a sufferer.
“Take the time to educate yourself,” says Natasha Devon, mental health campaigner and author of “A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental.”
Don’t make assumptions
Learning that a loved one is suffering from depression can come as a blow.
However, it is important to remember it is not your job to diagnose nor attempt to “cure” their condition.
Experts advise you to listen to what a loved one is saying with an open mind and resist the temptation to give advice, as it can often come across as judgemental.
“If someone comes to you with a problem, they often don’t want a solution, rather someone to listen,” explains Devon.
Mentalhealth.org advises listeners to lead a discussion at their own pace and not to second guess the feelings of those suffering.
You should also acknowledge that what a loved one is feeling is a real fear for them, and not something to be brushed off with a generalisation or comparison, says Devon.
“There’s always someone worse off so pointing that out to someone who is in distress won’t help.”
She said the most empathetic thing you can say to someone in this situation is “I can’t imagine what that must feel like, could you tell me more?”
Give the person plenty of time to respond to your questions and try not to allow the perception they are being interrogated and judged, she suggests.
Mind has found that over half of people who have experienced depression or anxiety isolate themselves from loved ones.
According to the experts, encouragement may be offering an individual the space confide in you about how they’re feeling, or simply keeping them company.
“If you think you know someone who is depressed, the best and simplest thing you can do, is to sit down and talk to them,” says Feehan.
“Show them you’re willing to listen to them about their problems, as it may be they’ve not felt able to speak about their feelings.”
Repeating back what they’ve said to you is a great way of understanding how they might be feeling and shows you respect their honesty and emotions.
If someone is reluctant to talk, sharing an activity “can be just as helpful as having a conversation”, according to Devon.
Consider your language
It’s important to recognise the impact words can have on someone suffering from psychological issues.
“Avoid placing blame on the individual for how they are feeling,” says Nicky Lidbetter, from Anxiety UK.
“Feeling depressed or anxious may already mean the individual is feeling low about themselves and adding further blame or onus on them may overwhelm or add a further negative dimension to their mental health.”
Experts suggest letting the individual express in their own words how their mental health problems manifest, what triggers it, how it impacts their day-to-day life and what support they might need.
Keep up a routine
When someone suffers from a mental health issue, such as anxiety, experts say it is imperative that they are in their comfort zone. Pressing them to do more than they feel comfortable with or forcing them into situations for which they do not feel ready yet can impair the nurturing process.
Keep in mind that being unable to control worries is a symptom of many mental health problems.
Lidbetter says keeping up a similar daily routine can be a great way of creating structure for an individual who might be suffering.
For some people, that might be as basic as getting out of bed and eating at regular meal times or “taking a morning jog and some self-care-time,” she suggests.
Be aware of triggers
Mental health professionals say that regular consumption of alcohol can have adverse effects upon those suffering with mental health problems.
As a result, Feehan advises being mindful of the amount of alcohol consumed.
“Cutting down on drinking can actually make you feel better and more receptive to treatments.”