Going into the New Year, a lot of us feel pretty optimistic about the next twelve months. That’s not the case for everyone though, especially if they’ve suffered with their mental health during the past two years.
If you live with or love someone with mental health issues, it can be hard to know how best to support them. After all, we all like to think that we’re caring and kind (well, I haven’t met many people who admit to being uncaring and unkind!) but sometimes we can really be put to the test.
Maybe you’ve found yourself in the position of wanting to be the best you can where a partner or friend is concerned. If they’re suffering with a health issue, whether it’s mental, emotional or physical, it’s natural to want to help them as much as possible.
Some people are ‘naturals’ in these caring roles, but even then, other people’s health issues can take a toll on our own well-being. If you’ve found yourself in this position, don’t beat yourself up about it. This week, I’m going to write about helping someone with mental health issues following on from my blog on 1 December when I wrote about how physical illness can affect your relationship
If your partner or friend is having a difficult time emotionally, you may have to help them to manage day-to-day tasks that previously they found easy to do themselves. But mental health affects people in different ways, so you have to almost ‘feel’ the situation as you go along.
One of your main roles will be to encourage and support them but also to help them to seek treatment such as medication, if appropriate, counselling and joining a group focussing on what’s going on for them. Don’t let’s underestimate the support of groups – even though a lot of people are reluctant to participate, they often find that the group is a lifeline. As someone who’s trying to help them, it might well be a lifeline for you as well.
You might also need to make phone calls for them – speaking on the phone can be a challenge at the best of times, but if you’re suffering emotionally, even more so.
Another way to encourage them is to build up their confidence about making decisions (when you’re depressed and anxious, it’s hard to have faith in the decisions you make in everyday life) and reinforce every little success that they have.
You may well feel frustrated that you can’t make them happy, or better, but like any physical health condition, you can’t always find a solution so don’t put that pressure on yourself. To help them, you need to stay healthy yourself.
If it’s really hard for them to tell you how they’re feeling on a day-to-day basis, setting up a colour-code might help. This would work by getting, say, four different coloured cards with each one having a meaning that you work out together. For instance, black could mean that they’re feeling particularly vulnerable on that day, red means they’re feeling angry or irritable, yellow means that they can’t talk about it but they do need some company and blue means that though they love you, they need to be alone that day. Whatever the card that they show you means, try to respect their needs.
Over a period of time, you might be able to interpret how they’re feeling without looking at cards but more about their behaviour and expressions on a particular day.
Most of all, as I said earlier, try to be there for them to talk to as much as you can but don’t neglect yourself and other relationships, otherwise you won’t be in a position to support them or anyone else.
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