How to support a close one who is struggling with their mental health

flower to brighten help someone
Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

In the same way that everyone has physical health, everyone also has mental health. The stigma around mental health issues persists even though they are very common. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the primary cause of disability worldwide. In just the first year of the pandemic, both depression and anxiety increased by more than 25%.

Most of us have gone through difficult situations in life. With the help of our loved ones, we can get through them. We would try to support them if they were going through challenging times too. For those who are finding how to help someone you care about whether they are a friend, relative, or co-worker, you need to understand that there are various methods to support them. However, whichever method you may choose, your support can make a world of a difference for those who are struggling. In this article, discover how you can assist a close one in your life who is struggling with their mental health.

What is mental health?

Our emotional, psychological, and social well-being are all parts of our mental health. It influences our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Additionally, it influences how we respond to stress, interact with others, and make decisions. Health Hub states that Singaporeans frequently believe that mental health exclusively refers to mental illness. In reality, it is a spectrum of mental health, from “functioning well” to “clinically diagnosed with mental illness.” We can move along this spectrum throughout time and at any time based on our capacity to control stress, our coping skills, and our lifestyle patterns.

Does taking care of mental health matter?

Being emotionally balanced can increase efficiency and effectiveness in tasks like jobs and education. It helps you adjust to changes in your life and deal with hardship. It also has a big impact on the health of your relationships. According to a National Alliance on Mental Health survey, 46 percent of persons who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition. Because of this, self-care, intervention from a close one, or early medical assistance can help reduce the frequency of suicide deaths.

How to navigate the conversation

You might be worried because you’ve noticed a close friend or family member acting differently or opening up to you about their fear for the first time. It might be challenging to know what to do or say. But realize this: you have taken the first step which is to equip yourself with knowledge. The desire to actively understand the struggles of your close one is a big notable step that will go a long way. The actions listed below can help you when you are navigating a conversation with someone who is struggling with their mental health.

  • Check in with yourself first
    Make sure you’re prepared to offer them the assistance they require. Do you have the time? Are you in the correct frame of mind to have this discussion? Ask someone else whom you believe can help if you feel unprepared.

  • Time and place
    Select a discreet, peaceful location that will be pleasant for both of you. At the same time, consider the timing of the conversation. It should take place when neither of you must worry about the day’s tasks.

  • How you can begin
    “We haven’t recently caught up. How have you been?”, ” What’s happening? You appear a little down. What’s on your mind?”. Inform them of the purpose of your conversation with them.

  • Show your concern
    Inform them that you are thinking about them and are eager to help. Try to be empathetic and genuine in showing your concern.

  • Ensure your questions are open-ended
    Avoid questions like, “You’re feeling sad, right?” or “Are you feeling better now?”. Ask them questions that require more than a yes/no response. They will feel more at ease to speak up and share more as a result.

  • Listen
    Allow them the time and space to communicate their emotions. Don’t do these as you are listening:
  • 1. Interrupt as they are sharing
    2. Problem-solving and jumping to conclusions
    3. Impose your views on them
    4. Play down their emotions

Validate their feelings

Affirm their emotions, this will motivate them to open more. Show them that you are aware of their perspective by responding with verbal cues such as “I see what you mean” or “I hear you out”. Alternately, tell them what you think of it in your own words. For example, you can tell them, “If I am hearing you correctly, you mean…” or “So you were disappointed when…”

  • Don’t shy away from the silence
    During these talks, there will be silences; embrace them as a normal aspect of the conversation. This is because they require a little more time to consider and reflect on everything they are experiencing.

  • Don’t expect anything
    It is fine if they are simply not prepared for the conversation. Be patient and keep your support going. Always give your assurance and let them know you are there for them.

  • Following up
    When the conversation has ended, try to follow up with them again. Make sure that the follow-up is actionable as well. You may say something like this: “It was nice to catch up today, and I hope to speak with you soon.” At the same time, you can add a reminder to your calendar to remind yourself to follow up.

  • Professional Help
    You might find some topics too big to handle on your own. Encourage someone to get professional help via emergency hotlines specific to your country as soon as they can if you sense them feeling extremely depressed for more than two weeks or if they appear to be in danger.

Healthful is a digital media publisher and does not offer professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always consult your doctor when it comes to your personal health or before you start any treatment.
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