If you didn’t know… I struggled with my mental health when I was a teenager. I had to receive counselling, take a bit of time off school and they was some of the toughest years/months of my life. But, I am now stronger and (on the whole) happier for it. And although I have struggled massively in 2020/21 and have sometimes not really seen an ending or a point to it, and I’ve had constant stress of not knowing for how long my job is safe for, has taken its toll… I am still, on the whole, positive! I find pockets of happiness in my day, I have the support of my boyfriend, friends and family and I find things to keep me busy!
But, someone close to me in my life really has struggled with the last year and has had to reach out to the NHS for help. And, it’s kicked up all those things people used to say to me that I found upsetting or annoying, as well as all the wonderful things people used to do to make me feel better. So, I thought I’d share with you my top tips on how to help someone struggling with their mental health… from someone who used to struggle with theirs! Especially as there are people out there struggling for the first time!
Phrases Not To Say
“Cheer up” “Your life isn’t that bad” “You’re just a bit sad” “There are people who have it worse than you” “At least you have xxx”
I could keep going on for days, but a lot of phrases are based on the above. Depression is not feeling sad. It’s not the same thing. And, unless you’ve experienced it first hand or from someone really close to you, you’ll probably never quite understand the feeling of emotional numbness paired with a sense of hopelessness… but that was what it felt like to me. And, yes, we know that we may seem to have it good, and there will always be someone or a group of people out there who have it worse. And in fact, that usually just adds guilt to the whole experience! But it doesn’t change your experience, how you feel, or what you’ve gone through. So don’t belittle someone with a phrase like ‘just smile’… even if you’re saying it from a place of good intentions.
What to say instead? “I’m always here to listen” “Call me any time” “I love you” “I’ll be here until better days come”
Ask How They Are… But Also Accept It If They Don’t Want To Talk About It
Check in on them and ask them how they are… sometimes it just helps to know someone out there cares! And as long as they’re talking to someone; be it their partner, a counsellor, a friend… anyone, don’t be offended or upset or push them if they don’t want to talk about it! Sometimes they just want to talk about a new pet or the TV show you watched last week… or sometimes they just want to sit in silence and have a hug. Just let them know you’re there.
And if they are open to talk and want to share how they are. Listen without judgement. Just because you may not agree with what they’re saying, doesn’t mean it isn’t how they feel.
Help Distract Them
Call them and talk about something light hearted and fun, head out on a walk together (covid permitting), have a film night (who remembers Netflix Party), send them some cat GIFs, bake something together. Whatever it is that works for your loved one (you’ll know them better than me), find something to do together or virtually that will help them forget about it for a little while. Sometimes you just need that 30 mins or 2 hours of thinking of something else for a bit!
Encourage Them To Get Active
Similar to the above, but when you’re really struggling sometimes you just cba to get out of bed or get your body moving… which in turn makes you feel worse… which in turn means you do less… and it’s a spiral. And I say encourage, because don’t go dragging someone across the house to the front door, but encourage them to come on a walk with you, to do yoga with you, cycle ride, oh I don’t know! Whatever exercise they normally love, try and get them back into it!
Try And Act As You Would Normally
Obviously this is going to be tough when you’re worried about them. But they won’t want to feel like a zoo animal… they want to feel normal, loved and that life can be as it was. So, just try to talk to them and act around them as you would normally!
Help Them Find Help If They Need It
While you can’t force anyone to do anything. There are loads of difference resources out there (in the UK especially) for people who are suffering with their mental health. If they reach the state where you, as a non trained general member of the public, feel you cannot help them, then you may need the support of a professional.
In England (and I believe many of these are UK wide), you can find professional help in many places;
Your GP can refer you to NHS mental health support (or if it becomes life threatening, I went via A&E when I was a teenager). Call the Samaritans free 24 hours for free on 116 123. Text the Shout Crisis text line by texting “SHOUT” to 85258. There’s Crisis (which is specifically for people under 35) which you can call on 0800 068 41 41 or text on 07786 209697. Calm, which you can call on 0800 58 58 58. Or your local NHS Mental Helpline – which you’ll be able to find here. And if it becomes seriously life threatening and something terrible has happened as a result of their mental health, there is obviously 999.
Look After Yourself
Helping someone navigate their way through their mental health can take its toll on you. So remember to look after yourself. Make sure you talk to other people in your life, take walks for you, whatever it is you need to do. Just no point making yourself miserable or you won’t be much help to that person in your life who needs you.
I know this is a little serious and not my usual cheerful makeup chat. But with everything going on in my life right now and around the world, I felt I wanted to share my personal experience and thoughts incase any of you are having to support someone though this!