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How to support someone with a mental health problem

3rd December 212 mins
By Toucan

How to support someone you think is suffering from mental health issues

We are all vulnerable to periods of poor mental health. We all need to take some responsibility for our mental wellbeing and recognise we should be looking after it as much as our physical health.

That doesn’t mean we should face mental health problems alone; sometimes you need a faithful friend to guide you back to a healthy place. It can be hard to know where to turn when someone you care about is suffering – so we’ve compiled some advice from experts and charities to help you.

It is important that if you believe someone is in immediate danger that you seek help from a trained professional who can provide specialist care.

Mind has a whole wealth of resources, including a landing page dedicated solely to how you can help someone else – which includes advice for specific issues or problems, such as coming off medication, depression, and anxiety and panic attacks. There is even an article explaining how Christmas can affect someone’s mental health – why not check out our own tips for boosting your mood in winter?

The charity emphasises the need to be open-minded and non-judgemental – and don’t dismiss them with phrases like “cheer up”, “it’ll pass” or “just pull yourself together”. Stop, listen, and ask how you can help.

Rethink Mental Illness has a helpful fact sheet you can download and covers a wealth of questions you may have, from encouraging your loved one to eat and drink to helping them stay independent. While there is no one-size-fits-all to helping someone suffering, Rethink Mental Illness covers the practical and financial aspects of caring for someone as well as the emotional.

There are a number of charity helplines you and your loved one can turn to. Shout is a 24/7 helpline for those feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed and in need of support. It is completely free and confidential. To start a conversation, text SHOUT to 85258. 

You could also call Samaritans on 116 123 to speak to their trained volunteers. There is even a self-help app you can download to keep track of how you are feeling and get recommendations on how to cope – which might be a great tool if you’re loved one is less keen to accept support from someone else.

The first step is often the hardest, and it is a journey that will require patience.

It is equally important to be mindful that you need to look after yourself too. It is easy to burn yourself out while providing emotional support for a friend or family member, so try to build a wider support network and set yourself some clear boundaries. If you start to struggle yourself, you can also reach out to any of the charities mentioned – and many others to – to help get yourself back on track.

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