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How Do I Help Someone With A Mental Health Challenge?

Updated: May 17, 2021

Many of us know how difficult this year has been, testing our mental health more than we thought possible. Even the strongest of us have started to struggle and it’s a natural reaction to the high level of uncertainty that we have been facing. So, you may find many more people close to you are suffering.

You may want to help others suffering with their mental health or have someone close to you that is suffering and you could be not feeling very confident about helping them or even may worry you will say the wrong thing. To help you to feel more confident, here are a few considerations for you...

Firstly, picking up the phone and asking someone if they are ok is a start although may not help the other person to open up or they may not answer the phone. I encourage you to arrange an activity as this is a great way to naturally open up a conversation. Going for a walk, visiting a local coffee shop or even doing the dishes together can really help to set the scene.

Once you do start to talk rather than stopping at the question ‘How are you?’, ask another open question to encourage them to open up more about how they feel, ‘what’s on been your mind?’ is a great question and isn’t a question that can really be answered with the ‘I’m ok’ or ‘I’m fine’ response.

Then it’s time to listen and really listen. Sometimes we don’t need an answer or advice we just need to talk. So, brush up on your listening skills. We recently published the article ‘How Can I Improve My Listening Skills' so take a read. It really is an art and takes a little bit of practice.

While listening and once the other person starts to open up try not to be dismissive of their feelings, hearing things like ‘it’s not that bad’ or ‘don’t feel like that’. All feelings are valid and it’s their point of view. Dismissing what they are feeling could result in them closing up.

Reassure them instead by recognising their strengths and give them comforting responses.

Try not to ask why they feel that way. Often this can feel interrogating and a person often doesn’t know why they feel the way they do. Instead aim to ask situational questions such as ‘what do you think would happen if….’ Or ‘what do you think they meant by that?’

Try not to fix, it is often easy to see the answer from the outside in or think we have the answer, but this can make us come across judgemental and non-empathetic. We are not there to fix anything for someone, only encourage them to follow through on what they decide. You may be a natural problem solver and do this a lot at work, as an example, so be mindful that when talking to someone about their mental health it often isn’t about giving them the answer.

The final thing to remember is that they may not say much or want to talk at first. Togetherness and just being there can also help. Hopefully, they will start to open up to you, at first they may feel a burden or that they shouldn’t feel the way they do. We are much more likely to hold in emotions that we have been conditioned to believe aren’t acceptable. For example, we are much more likely to tell people about the good feelings we have, openly expressing them to anyone that will listen whereas when we feel, disappointed, upset, angry, ashamed, embarrassed or worried we are less likely to open up, suppressing those feelings.

If you suspect they could be a risk to themselves or to others then please ensure that you encourage them, and encourage them again, to get professional help.

If you are helping someone that has an ongoing mental health disorder or illness this can also start to impact your own mental health so I really encourage you to also get some professional support for yourself.

Remember the more we know, the less we fear and It’s great that you have the compassion to what to help others.

If you would like more confidence by learning more about this topic, I recommend our Mental Health Awareness Online Course. This course covers so much more in-depth information on the subject and will educate you on the topic. Also, to hear what people say about our mental health awareness course then click here.


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