mental health

World Mental Health Day – Supporting others with their mental health

Supporting Those Struggling With Their Mental Health

10-20 minute read.

On World Mental Health Day we want to make sure everyone feels supported. This blog is for those helping a friend or a loved one struggling with their mental health.

We have pulled together information from reputable resources, but we are not trained doctors or councilors. Our knowledge comes from 10 years worth of being a trained wellbeing advocate and coach. We use a mixture of holistic therapies knowledge and scientific studies. By coaching those struggling with their mental health we have gained a deeper understanding but this is just a guide. If you are struggling yourself always go see your GP.

1. Research!

You won’t understand these conditions unless you are experiencing them yourself. Sometimes, even if you do suffer from the same mental health condition, it affects everyone differently. Everyone’s triggers and reactions are different, so don’t generalize.

Just by doing some research for 30 minutes, you will gain a deeper understanding of the different kinds of conditions people struggle with. If they are acting irrational and unmotivated, are they actually currently stuck in a deep and difficult internal battle? Learn about their mental illness and you will be able to understand them better.

Interesting video to help you understand mental health in general better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2hc2FLOdhI

For a 5 minute know-how on anxiety go to: https://mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/conditions/anxiety-disorders/

For in-depth information on OCD and how it is treated go to: https://www.ocdaction.org.uk/know-more-about-ocd

To find out more about depression go to: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/#.XXOY0ChKg2w

For a general A-Z on mental health conditions go to:  https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/a-z-mental-health/

Before self-diagnosing, it is important you always see your GP. The above links are from reputable sources, but we still advise to get a professional opinion.

2. Listen!

Listen to them with compassion and without judgment. There is a stigma surrounding mental health and the more we talk about it, the less it is something to be ashamed of. It’s important we are able to talk openly about our mental health. Many mental health conditions cause your mind to spiral out of control. Thoughts race through someone’s mind, going around in circles.

Just by listening can help externalize these thoughts, relieving the feeling of being stuck in your own head. You don’t need to give advice, and if they ask but you don’t know what to say, then find reputable sources that offer tips on how to relieve things like anxiety or encourage them to seek professional help. Just letting them know you care can be enough.

“You can’t force someone to get help if they don’t want it. What you can do is remind them there is help out there. That it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength knowing there is a limit to how you can help yourself.” – Mind Charity

Thorough research will show that some of the best professional treatments include things such as hypnotherapy, yoga, mindfulness, and CBT.

3. Don’t compare your occasional low moods to depression!

Mental illnesses can be debilitating if they are severe enough, that’s not worthy of comparing yourself unless you also struggle with the same level of say, anxious or depressive thoughts. Be mindful of what you say and don’t downplay someone’s struggle.

4. When they open up, understand to them it is very real.

Calling someone stupid for believing if they don’t check 10 times a burglar will come in and kill their family is stupid, makes them feel exactly that. Be mindful of what you say as it can leave them feeling misunderstood. Meaning they are more likely to isolate themselves.

Some unhelpful phrases:

“If your mental health is that bad go to the doctors and get anti-depressants.” There are many ways to treat mental health that don’t involve medication. Some people feel uncomfortable taking medication, so don’t pressure them.

“Just cheer up”

“You worry too much”

“I like things clean too”

“You’re doing this for attention”

“Just don’t do it, just push past it”

If it were that simple, that easy to move on or out of a state of utter self-loathing, fear and sadness, do you not think people would have done so already?

People with anxiety worry too much as their cognitive processes are heightened and their automatic conditioning is one of fear and worry.

The science

Dr. Bruce Lipton explains how we only use our conscious brain 5% of the time during a given day. The other 95% is our subconscious mind running autopilot. How do you think we can text and walk, and not hit a lamppost (most of the time)? Our subconscious mind is using what it has learned during the first part of our life and using that to go about our day.

If we have been conditioned either through childhood trauma, or a traumatic event in our adult life this will affect our subconscious processes. So no, 95% of the time we can’t just “not worry” or “snap out of it”.

Here are some more helpful phrases:

“It’s going to be ok”

“I know it’s hard but you’ll get through it”

“You’re stronger than you think. You’ve got this”

“Your own opinion is the most important”

“You know yourself the best”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“What do you need right now?”

“I’m sorry I don’t understand what you’re going through, but I’m here for you.”

“I’m always here if you need me”

“Everything will be okay”

6. Patience

How and when people recover is in their own time. You can suggest treatments, give advice on what may relieve some of their symptoms, but ultimately it takes them saying to themselves “I am ready to change”.

During recovery, and if you have become the person they go to because they know you are open to listening without judgment, you may find conversations repeat themselves. Be patient and if something worked for the person struggling last time they were in this situation, suggest it again.

Research suggests breaking a habit can take anything from 21 to 66 days. Help them see the big picture and celebrate the small wins with them. It’s not about never being depressed, being anxiety-free or even never doing a compulsion or having intrusive thoughts again. It’s about being able to manage them in such a way that doesn’t get in the way of relationships or work.

7. Keep in touch

Mental health conditions often make the person struggling believe they are better left alone because they just are a burden on everyone around them. Making them susceptible to isolation. Let them know you are thinking about them, just a text or email to say you’re here for them can make a dark day seem lighter. Or if you are unable to offer emotional support, just a message saying you love them or care for them goes a long way. They may not believe it at first, or it will take them a while, but like the time you learned how to speak, the more you hear it the more you’re able to do it for yourself.

8. Say thank you

It takes a tremendous amount of courage and strength to share with someone what is going on in their head. Someone suffering from mental illness can have irrational and horrific thoughts. Some people are already judging themselves badly for having these thoughts in the first place, they don’t need to be told by someone else how crazy, irrational or disgusting they are.

There is a huge stigma attached to mental health and talking about mental health. Many people are working towards breaking that. Be part of that movement and recognize this positive step someone has taken to open up to you.

“I had a black dog” illustrates the struggles of depression and how opening up helped this individual. Find the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc

9.The Chain of Support

Often when we are supporting someone with their mental health, it is because we care for them deeply. Be it a friend or family member, we want them to be happy and live life to the full. It can be difficult for you seeing them struggle, so make sure you allow time to take care of your own mental health too.

Make sure you have people to go to for support too. Even those who consider themselves to have good mental health can be affected by someone struggling around them. It won’t be in the same way, or as intense, but it’s important we take the time to look after ourselves too. Take time to recover yourself before you try to be there for someone else.

If you feel yourself being affected negatively by the person you are supporting, it is okay to say no. BUT do so compassionately. Remind them, the best way you can help them is to make sure you’re able to stay calm, and positive for them. For you to do that, you have to take some time to recharge your own batteries. It wasn’t them that drained your battery in the first place, life is busy, life is can be tiring and we all need to take time to recuperate.

 

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About The Author

Alexandra Stumpp

A 2019 graduate of German from the Univeristy of Bristol, Alex is the Events and Marketing Assistant for Discover Your Bounce. She joined the team in March 2019 as an Intern and is now a full-time employee. Her expertise is the study of cultures and languages. Being half Swiss and through her studies she speaks fluent German.