It can be hard for those who have never suffered a mental health issue to understand what a loved one might be going through when they say, for example, that they are feeling depressed or anxious. Never having experienced mental health problems yourself might make it difficult to comprehend what it is like. This could mean saying or doing the wrong thing.
The first thing to do if someone you love is struggling to cope because of their mental health is to find out as much as you can about what they are going through. Educating yourself will make it easier for you to understand and will give you the tools to help you communicate effectively with the affected person. But is there anything else you do?
Talk to Your Loved One
Don’t assume that your loved one won’t want to talk to you about what they are going through. If you have done your research and found a bit more about the condition, you are going to be in a much better position to have a frank discussion.
Take some time to sit down with your loved one and ask them what you can do to help. Listen to what they have to say and let them go at their own pace. It might be tempting to jump in with your own opinions, but you need to avoid doing this if you can. Bear in mind that you are not trained to counsel someone with mental health problems, so the best thing you can do is just listen.
Don’t be tempted to rattle off a list of things the person should be grateful for or otherwise tell them they have no reason to feel the way they do. Remember, they have no control over how they are feeling. Just because you can see the positives does not mean they are in a position to.
Suggest Professional Help
Oftentimes, an individual with mental health issues will need professional intervention. According to the experts at Horizon Health, mental health management is crucial and should be provided by a team of professionals. These might include psychiatrists, psychotherapists, counselors, and therapists. Your first port of call might be your own general practitioner who can refer the person for further assessment. You can offer to go with them if they are open to the idea but remember that there is a limit to the amount of support you could or should provide. After all, you are not medically trained.
Perhaps the most important way to support a loved one with mental health problems is to just be there for them. Staying connected is crucial. Even if it feels completely one-sided, remember that the affected individual is struggling and may not be in the right frame of mind to reach out to you. This does not mean you should stop reaching out to them. It may be a phone call every day or so or just a text to show them that you are thinking of them. Mental health problems can rob a person of their ability to enjoy life, so they often become isolated and withdrawn. You can help prevent this from happening just by remaining constant and being there.
However difficult you might find it to understand, there are several ways to help a loved one with mental or behavioral health problems. Learning as much as you can about the illness is a good start. Then take time to listen to the person. Support them to look for professional help, and be there when they need you.