How prepared are you if someone replied to your everyday “how are you?” question with something other than small talk? Do you know how to help someone when their health problem is invisible? As someone who’s been the supporter as well as the supported, I’ll be explaining how best to help someone struggling mentally. Research confirms that one of the key parts in order to have a successful recovery, is to have a strong support network. This can be made up of siblings, teachers, extended families, colleagues, neighbours, parents and guardians, close friends, and many more. It’s also quite common for a support network to include several professionals such as therapists, GPs or psychiatrists.

Keep an eye out for signs

Make yourself aware of signs and symptoms of a variety of mental illnesses. And if you know what that person is specifically struggling with, try to do as much research as possible so that you are equipped and prepared just in case things take a turn. Some signs include:

·     Not enjoying anything anymore, particularly hobbies or anything else they enjoyed

·     They are eating and/or sleeping much more or less than normal

·     They’ve been skipping a lot of work, school, or other important commitments

·     Feelings or bursts of anger or sadness for no reason

·     They are misusing alcohol/drugs

·     They are talking/joking about suicide

Encourage them to seek professional help

Although sharing a cup of coffee and having a moan might feel like the therapy that the person needs, it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to offer professional advice and help in the long term. Recommending that they speak to their doctor, or visit charities and sites that you’ve researched is a huge help – many people suffering with mental illness won’t have the motivation to research how to get help themselves and/or may be in denial

Maybe even offer to accompany them to appointments.  

Help with medications, reminders, and homework

Remembering to take medication is a huge task for those with mental illnesses, and a very important one. Helping them remember to take their medication, to do their therapy homework, and to make their appointments is a huge help. You’ll also be able to help them when it comes to talking about whether a new medication is working, or an old one has stopped working, as you’ll be the one to notice any changes first.

Emotional support

You may be able to help make someone who feels like they’re to blame for everything realise that they’re not, and that they aren’t alone.Try to be there for them in every way possible, and always be patient. Just giving someone space to talk, and listening to their difficulties, is so helpful. This for me, is the most useful and what I appreciate the most. Just having someone offer to listen to me rant and not be judgmental, really goes along way.

But please don’t forget about your own emotional support.

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We are an online mental health charity. We are not doctors or therapists, not counsellors or psychiatrists, we are mental health volunteers who understand; people who have ALL experienced mental health issues.