Making the first move in reaching out to a loved one who is suffering with their mental health will make the world of difference to their wellbeing. Here, we discuss how best to approach the subject and how you can offer support
According to the NHS, “mental health is about how we think, feel, and behave” and it can take many different forms. Mental health problems can impact your personality, energy levels, outlook and your physical health, and poor mental health isn’t rare. One in four people in the UK have been affected by mental health at some point in their lives. People who are going through a tough time with their mental health can often feel isolated, misunderstood and anxious. In many cases, they will struggle to reach out to loved ones or professionals in order to address the problem. So what can you do to help?
1. Look out for the signs
As previously stated, a friend or family member with mental health difficulties is likely to feel isolated. They may not come to you directly to discuss mental health issues, so you should try and be on the lookout for some tell-tale signs. These signs can include:
- Low confidence
- Lack of social interest
- Lack of appetite
- Obsessive behaviour
- Panic attacks
- Getting tearful on a regular basis
Of course, mental health has many facets, and these are tell-tale signs to a few different problems. But, if a loved one is showing any of these signs then it is worth reaching out and offering your support.
2. Check-in on them
Once you’ve identified a problem, or you know someone has been vulnerable to mental health issues in the past, checking in on them is of the utmost importance. Some people can put up a front and may seem perfectly fine on the surface. However, anyone could be struggling, even if they are smiling through it. Take your friend out for a coffee or send your relative a mindfulness card to let them know that you’re thinking of them. Not only will this action alone make them feel seen, but it will give them an opportunity to open up in a safe and comfortable space.
When checking in on a friend about mental health, the location you choose is important. Make sure you choose a peaceful place to have the conversation, with few distractions so that they feel comfortable and focussed. Remember, you are not a doctor, so don’t try and diagnose them. Primarily, you are there to listen and comfort rather than to offer medical advice. Keep your questions open-ended and try not to second guess their answers. Another useful approach is to repeat their answers back to them so that they feel confident that you are giving them your full attention and understanding them.
Once they have shared their experience with you, open up the conversation about wellbeing and mindfulness. Let them know that you’ll be right there with them every step of the way and that you’ll support them in any lifestyle changes they want to make.
If the problem feels out of your hands, encourage your loved one to seek medical advice. Offer help in finding professional support or direct them towards a helpline such as the Samaritans.
3. Send a mindfulness card
Although a text message is an easy and quick way to check up on someone, a card would be much more thoughtful. Greeting card manufacturers offer many cards that have been specifically designed around mindfulness practices and mental wellbeing. Choosing one of these rather than sending a quick text will show your loved one that you’ve really been thinking about them. Furthermore, a handwritten message triggers a stronger emotional response than a text or an online message. It could make the world of difference to someone who is going through a difficult period.