To round off Mental Health Awareness month, I wanted to share some tips on how to be apart of a solid support system if you have a loved one on this journey.
The truth is, we’re alllll going through something — so why not take the time to learn how we can best support one another? Leave me a comment if these tips were helpful and share it with a loved one if you feel called too.
How do I know if someone is struggling with their mental health and wellness?
Sometimes it may seem obvious and other times not so much. Some people have diagnoses and others don’t. This is key. Because whether or not someone is displaying symptoms or have received a diagnosis, doesn’t really matter, does it? It is simply important to be kind, and have grace and compassion for everyone — ourselves, included.
However, if you do happen to notice changes in mood or behavior this may be a sign that they are struggling with their mental health.
Some common symptoms are :
- Extreme irritability
- Becoming closed off and reclusive
- Lack of focus
- Extreme changes in sleep
- Extreme changes in diet
This is also a reminder that everyone displays symptoms differently. So, just be mindful.
Ways To Support Your Loved One
1. Educate Yourself On Mental Health + Wellness
If it’s not something you’re used to, then discussing mental health may feel uncomfortable. The more you learn about mental health, the more comfortable, understanding and knowledgable you’ll be with supporting someone who is struggling.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, join forums and communities, read articles and books, etc. There are hundreds of mental health concerns; your job is not to become an expert in all of them but it is helpful to familiarize yourself with common symptoms, terms, conditions etc. Expanding your knowledge will always help you better understand how to communicate with and support your loved one.
2. Get Specific & Learn About Them
Everyone’s history with mental health is specific to them. Furthermore, coping styles and mechanisms differ from person to person. Learning more about what your loved one is specifically going through will allow for you to better show up for them.
Approach the experience with them with judgment-free curiosity and allow it to open your mind to new possibilities and creative solutions.
3. Be Mindful Of Language
When helping someone through a mental illness, it’s important to be mindful of the words you use. Well, when helping and supporting ANYONE it’s important to be mindful of the words you use, right?
To express concern try saying something like:
“I noticed you’ve been distant lately. Just reminding you that I’m here for you if you want to talk about anything.”
Instead of saying something like:
“You’ve been acting strange lately. What’s up with that?”
The latter may feel very pressuring to someone that is dealing with a bout in their mental wellness. Whereas, the former may feel more genuine and understanding.
4. Express Interest in Their Treatment & Ask Them What They Need
Once you’ve educated yourself on their condition, you may want to extend your support a bit further (if they allow you to of course).
Ask them about what your treatment plan is — i.e medications and/or therapy.
You may even want to ask them how you can better support them (while still honoring how you may or may not be able to show up); whether it be a listening ear, driving them to therapy appointments or something else. Listen, without guilt, shame, judgement, or blame, and ask to be an active participant in their journey.
5. Be Patient
Sometimes our loved ones are not ready to seek out support or they may have a different idea about what type of support they would like to receive. As much as we desire to be there for our loved ones, it’s also very important for us to step back sometimes. Reassure them and that we are on their side and we are with them when they are ready to take the next step.
6. When They’re Ready To Share — Just — Listen.
When and if it feels good to them, allow your loved one to share as much or as little as they are comfortable with in regards to their mental health. Allow them to lead the discussion. Don’t rush them, interrupt them or make the conversation about yourself by oversharing your own experiences and beliefs. And please, don’t pressure them to disclose more than they are willing or ready to.
Understand that talking about your mental health is a powerful but very vulnerable process.
7. Know Your Limits & Take Time For Yourself
Just as your loved one may need support, you need support too. And being there for someone on this journey has the potential to shift yours. So it’s equally (if not more) important to make sure that you are honoring yourself, your boundaries and your own mental health.
Give yourself time to rest, distress and take a step back if the weight of it all just feels too heavy.
But also, make sure that you are letting your loved one know what your limitations are and when you might need a break. Try to set and follow appropriate relationship boundaries as you help your loved one on their journey.
8. Lean On Community
If your loved one allows, gather in community. Create safe spaces for everyone to be themselves fully, to disclose what they wish too and to comfort one another. Many times, we feel like we are the other ones going through something, only to learn later that we weren’t and missed out on the opportunity to heal with each other as opposed to suffering alone.
If your loved one is not up to it, I still suggest YOU gathering in community so that you are able to find support while also being the support system for another.
9. Encourage Them To Talk With A Professional
You don’t need to support someone all by yourself, nor should you. If you feel like your loved one needs extra help, encourage them to talk with a mental health professional. Many professionals are easily accessible and ready to support, both online and in-person.
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