Most people experiencing a mental wellbeing problems will speak to friends and family before they speak to a health professional, so the support you offer can be really valuable. Therefore it is crucial to know what kind of support you can offer.
If someone lets you know that they are experiencing difficult thoughts and feelings, it’s common to feel like you don’t know what to do or say – but you don’t need any special training to show someone you care about them, and often it can be the most valuable help you can offer. For example:
Listen. Simply giving someone space to talk, and listening to how they’re feeling, can be really helpful in itself. If they’re finding it difficult, let them know that you’re there when they are ready.
Offer reassurance. Seeking help can feel lonely, and sometimes scary. You can reassure someone by letting them know that they are not alone, and that you will be there to help.
Stay calm. Even though it might be upsetting to hear that someone you care about is distressed, try to stay calm. This will help your friend or family member feel calmer too, and show them that they can talk to you openly without upsetting you.
Be patient. You might want to know more details about their thoughts and feelings, or want them to get help immediately. But it’s important to let them set the pace for seeking support themselves.
Try not to make assumptions. Your perspective might be useful to your friend or family member, but try not to assume that you already know what may have caused their feelings, or what will help.
Keep social contact. Part of the emotional support you offer could be to keep things as normal as possible. This could include involving your friend or family member in social events, or chatting about other parts of your lives.
There are lots of practical things you can do to support someone who is ready to seek help. For example:
Look for information that might be helpful. When someone is seeking help they may feel worried about making the right choice or feel that they have no control over their situation. You can give useful information to your friend by searching the internet for blogs, videos or people who share similar experiences. This can help your friend make the right choice. However, keep in mind that it is crucial for you not to force your friend into doing something they don’t feel is right for them.
Help to write down lists of questions that the person you’re supporting wants to ask their doctor, or help to put points into an order that makes sense (for example, most important point first).
Help to organise paperwork. For example making sure that your friend or family member has somewhere safe to keep their notes, prescriptions, and records of appointments.
Go to appointments with them, if they want you to – even just being there in the waiting room can help someone feel reassured.
Ask them if there are any specific practical tasks you could help with, and work on those. For example, this could include:
- offering a lift to their appointment
- taking over a chore or household task
Learn more about the problem they experience, to help you think about other ways you could support them. You can refer to the Mind website to find out more about mental wellbeing.
Source: Mind and NHS