How to Support Loved Ones Living with Mental Health Challenges


Mental health is an essential part of well-being, one that can unfortunately be overlooked. Mental health issues are often unseen, and this can make supporting someone with mental health issues difficult, but it is an important role in the journey to healing and management. If someone you care about is living with mental health challenges and you want to know how to best provide your support, you’ve come to the right place. Below we outline our top tips to help you help the people you care about.

Educate Yourself

If you know what mental health condition or conditions the person is dealing with, it is a good idea to do some research about the symptoms and challenges they may be experiencing, treatment options and what specific strategies you may be able to use to help. For example, someone with ADHD may benefit from an extra reminder the day before an event. Do keep in mind that, everyone is different and while a greater knowledge of the condition will certainly help you to understand the person and the difficulties may be struggling with, like with anything else, what applies to one person may not necessarily apply to the next. The best way to find out is to ask. Asking, “what are some things that you find work for you?” not only demonstrates that you care about the person but also that you are invested in doing what you can to help.

This brings us to the next big tip: Communicate.

Communicate

We know you’ve heard it before, “Communication is Key”. Send a text, make a phone call, or plan regular visits to show your support and maintain a connection. Social isolation can worsen mental health issues, so just your company can be an asset. This certainly applies here and there are a couple of things you can do to boost your communication skills when supporting someone facing challenges, mental health or otherwise. Firstly, be a good listener. Lend a non-judgemental ear and allow opportunity for them to share their thoughts and feelings without fear of ridicule or brushing-off. Express empathy and compassion for what the are going through and avoid invalidating or minimise their feelings. Phrases like, “I can’t fully understand what you’re going through, but I’m here for you,” can go a long way. And, though it can be good to educate yourself about treatments and strategies that may be helpful, avoid offering unsolicited advice; sometimes, all they need is someone to listen. Sometimes this can be as simple as asking, “do you want someone to listen, or do you want advice?” if you are unsure. Providing a safe and non-judgemental environment is essential to encourage open communication and good listening is a great way to offer support, but there are some other things you can do that don’t directly pertain to mental health.

Offer Practical Help

Sometimes living with mental health issues can be exhausting or effect memory, motivation, and ability to perform tasks. This can make it difficult to manage everyday activities. Something as simple as unstacking the dishwasher, hanging out washing, or providing a meal can make a big difference. One example, that can be a great help is offering to be an exercise buddy. For many mental health issues, the task of doing some exercise is a big one and can be easily avoided if you are alone, however having an exercise buddy can provide the encouragement needed. Even if it just a walk around the block, exercise is an incredible asset in supporting mental health and can be the first to go when someone is experiencing mental health challenges. Just by providing company and an activity, or alleviating the stress of simple household chores, you are able to make a positive impact. This being said, there is of course only so much you can offer, and it is also important to encourage your loved you to seek the help from a trained psychologist or counsellor.

Encourage Treatment

Psychologists are specifically trained to provide support for those with mental health issues. They have a collection of therapy skills, treatments, and strategies to provide the best guidance and support on the road to management and recovery. At Plenish Mind Health, we are trained in a vast array of therapies and have the skills and experience to implement them effectively and with compassion and empathy. Everyone can benefit from therapy regardless of the issues they may be living with and encouraging loved ones to seek help is a great way to support them. Ensure that in doing so you promote a stigma-free environment where seeking help for mental health issues is a positive step.

You can also encourage self-care. While the support of a mental health professional is an important part of managing mental health, there are several other practices that can be very helpful for everyone’s mental well-being. Encourage self-care practices, such as mindfulness, physical activity and proper nutrition, as they can all significantly impact mental well-being. As said earlier, this might be in the form of offering company during exercise or preparing a meal, but can also include suggesting strategies such as, mindfulness breathing exercises, positive self-talk, making sleep a priority and practicing gratitude. This being said, in the wrong context, suggestions like this may fall into the category of unsolicited advice or overstepping boundaries, and it is important to keep this in mind when encouraging self-care.  

Respect Boundaries

Respecting boundaries is essential in any and all relationships you have with the people in your life, but this can sometimes be difficult when you are concerned for someone’s wellbeing. While it’s natural to want to help, try to remember that pushing too hard can be counterproductive. Let your loved ones set their own pace for their journey with their mental health and respect their need for space and independence.

Be Patient

Treatment for mental health issues is often a gradual process. Be patient and understand that progress is not always linear – there will be setbacks along the way and for many people living with mental health challenges, the goal is not a ‘cure’ but rather learning how to live with it. Remember to celebrate the little victories and provide reassurance during setbacks. It can be frustrating and tiring for both the individual and the people around them when it comes to the ups and downs associated with managing mental health issues, but it is important to remember that this is setbacks are normal, common and do not mean that progress is not being made.

Take Care of Yourself

Supporting someone with mental health issues can be emotionally draining. Don’t forget to take care of your own mental health and set boundaries. It can be difficult to say no when you are aware someone you love is struggling, but it is essential to ensure that your own mental health is being looked after. Both for yourself and so that you can continue to support your loved ones effectively. Seek support from friends, family, or a therapist if needed, as it is a must to maintain your well-being too.

Summary

Supporting someone with mental health issues is a significant act of kindness and love. It’s key to remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and the amount of support required may vary from person to person and from time to time. By educating yourself, communicating effectively, and encouraging professional help, you can be a valuable source of strength for your loved one as they learn to heal, grow and thrive – despite mental health challenges.


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