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Mental Health Matters: Understanding and Supporting Loved Ones

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It’s important for anyone with a friend or relative struggling with mental health issues to be able to understand and support their loved ones. While it’s natural to want to help, it’s not always easy to know what to do or say.

If you have a loved one who is dealing with mental health issues – or if you’re looking for advice for someone in this situation – this guide is here to help.

Here are five ideas that you can use to support people through many of the difficulties they may be facing with their mental health.

Give loved ones space to talk – and know how to listen

One of the best things you can do to help and support someone with their mental health is to give them some space to open up about how they’re feeling. Make it clear that they don’t have to talk if they don’t want to, and they don’t have to go into detail if they’d prefer not to. This is essentially about making sure someone feels safe when talking to you, so that they know they won’t be judged if they express how they’re struggling.

Be there for them without putting pressure on them

When someone you love is distressed, it’s natural to want to help. But trying to force someone to accept help they’re not ready for can actually make it harder for them to get better. Pushing someone into something they’re not quite ready for can be very stressful for someone who is already struggling. They may feel like they’re letting you down if your advice doesn’t work straight away, which can make things worse in the long term.

Try not to offer solutions unless they’ve specifically asked for them. Sometimes, people need to explain and understand their own mindset before they can think about changing it – and talking to someone can help them to reach this understanding. Sometimes, you don’t need to do anything except be there.

Alternatively, you could try asking how you can help. This centres your loved one’s needs and lets them know that you’ll be there for them whenever they need you, encouraging them to take things at their own pace.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that you don’t have to support them alone. Encouraging people to see a therapist can be really helpful.

Professionals looking for somewhere to practise therapy can explore psychotherapy rooms to rent in London, which makes it more likely that people will be able to find a therapist local to them.

Don’t be dismissive

It can be tempting to offer reassuring statements such as ‘Everything will be fine’ and ‘Try not to think about it’. While these phrases may sound supportive on a surface level, they can come across as dismissive. While you may intend to be helpful, some people will interpret this as you attempting to minimise the difficulties they’re facing. Instead, try more neutral phrases, such as ‘That sounds hard, I’m sorry you’re going through that’. This shows that you have acknowledged what they’ve told you and recognised the effect it is having on them.

Make time for yourself

When you’re supporting a loved one who is experiencing difficulties with their mental health, you may find that you start to struggle yourself. This is a completely natural reaction that happens to lots of people – but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Making time for yourself is an important step when it comes to preventing your own mental health from deteriorating. Try to set aside some time each day to do something for yourself. Even something as simple as going for a walk or reading a book can do a lot to improve your mood and leave you feeling refreshed.

Don’t just talk about their problems

While it’s important to let your loved ones discuss their issues, remember you can still talk about other things. In fact, only talking about their mental health struggles has the potential to compound the problem. Remember that they are still the same person – you can still talk about things you both enjoy, or plan activities to help take their mind off their problems.

Although it’s essential to keep in mind that you can’t ‘fix’ the problem for them, you can take steps to make things easier. This could look like suggesting things to do that could help to brighten their day, or simply asking if there’s anything you can do for them. Don’t be upset if they say no – sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to listen to what they want and respect their feelings.

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