This post was written by guest contribute Sara Durante who is passionate about removing the stigma around mental health. You can check out the rest of her work here.
Hope you guys enjoy todays guest post by Sara! Let me know what you think!!
Your partner or friend has opened up to you about their poor mental health, you’ve let them know that you’ll be there for them – but what does this actually mean? What doesn’t being ‘there’ look like and how does this actually help?
As someone who experienced this on both sides, here are my top four tips to help someone with poor mental health.
- Acknowledge their situation.
When we are first told about their mental health, the initial response is often to find out more about it. How long have they been experiencing those feelings? How bad are the feelings? Is there something that triggers those feelings? It’s easy to look at the situation objectively and automatically assume that things aren’t that bad & we can deal with it. When a friend is having a bad day, we often say things like ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘just stay positive’ or when dealing with anxiety/nerves ‘you’re just nervous, when we get there you’ll be fine’.
If your loved one has come to you to discuss their mental health, chances are that it’s not a fleeting feeling that they’ll just be able to get over once the moment has passed. By saying things such as above, you risk being emotionally dismissive and making them feel like their feelings aren’t valid. This is something that it is your responsibility to acknowledge. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid and they’re serious. Don’t assume that it’s just for the moment and consider that it could be debilitating for them. This is an awesome opportunity to practice those listening skills. They’ve come to you because they trust you and want your help.
- Don’t forget about it.
It is so easy to dismiss pain that we can’t see. Over 90% of illnesses are invisible and affects more than 20% of people at one stage in their life. Because we’re not visually reminded of it and we’re relying on the other person to ‘bring it up’ sometimes it’s easy to forget that some people to suffer with invisible illness. This doesn’t necessarily apply only to mental health, but all internal illnesses, for example, Chronic Fatigue, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Cystic Fibrosis or Arthritis. When we see someone who is outwardly in pain (for example, with an aid or with apparent poor motor skills) the visual cue of seeing them reminds us to check in with them and make sure that they’re okay.
It’s important to not forget about it just because you can’t see it. If you find that your loved one is behaving a little differently, is acting more withdrawn or is tired – try and use these as your cues to remind you to check in every now and then.
- Don’t suffocate them or try and fix them.
While it is important to not forget about their poor mental health, you also don’t need to bend over backward to try and ‘fix’ the problem. By constantly checking in and worrying about your loved one, you risk reminding them on one of their ‘good’ days and bringing them down unnecessarily. It can be a difficult line to walk, but the best way to manage it is to let them seek help from you. Once in a while, remind them that you are there to talk to and if they need your support in seeing additional help to please let you know. Remember, it is not your responsibility to be their therapist, but you can gently encourage them to see one. It is also important to not be their crutch where they solely rely on you to get them through their ‘bad’ days as this won’t help with their recovery.
- Take care of yourself first.
Similar to when on an airplane, in every safety demonstration, they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping others in the case of an emergency. If you don’t take care of yourself & your own mental health, you’ll risk hurting yourself and you won’t be able to provide the best help to your loved ones. Sometimes we have to be selfish, and while it’s not our natural way to live – it’s important to take care of YOU.