How To Help Someone Struggling With Their Mental Health

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!

Katie x

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83 thoughts on “How To Help Someone Struggling With Their Mental Health

  1. This is such an important post, and thank you for opening up about your mental health. You never truly know what is going on in someone’s life, so it’s always best to show kindess and support. This is why this community is great, because we can be here for each other💖

  2. This is such an important post and it’s so well written too. I’ve struggled with mental health and whilst I know strategies now that help, I still have good and bad days. I think it is incredibly important to educate people on topics such as this blog post x

    1. This year has definitely been a test for all of us, and there are people in my life who have never struggled before this year… and I just want to help however I can xx

  3. I <3 your tip about trying to act as your normally would. I think it makes a real difference to someone who is struggling not to suddenly be treated differently. Respecting their decision not to talk about their mental health is also important; sometimes people want to talk and sometimes not, but having the option means so much.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Yeah! I feel like sometimes people don’t say anything because they don’t want to be treated differently, so just reminding them that they can still live their old life (or new life if that’s what they need) is so important! x

  4. I think as someone who personally suffers with mental health issues i wish i could politely send this to my friends, sometimes its hard to know what to say or do but this is such a good summary!

  5. This is such an important post. Most people, including me, suffer with mental distress unknowingly and so it is crucial to take a good care of ourselves. Thanks Katie for bringing this up.

  6. Thank you for sharing! A lot of people struggle with mental health at some point and it can take its toll. Knowing what to say and what not to say is important, often just being there and offering support is a big help. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed and burnt out lately, this past year has been mad (and it’s not even because of Covid). NZ’s lockdown was a breeze compared to things that have happened to me and my family personally over the past wee while x

      1. Thank you, that’s so kind! Same goes for you too 🥰 Like a lot of people I have bad days where every once and a while feelings pile up but at the moment I’m alright x

  7. This is so important to share! As someone with anxiety and depression, it’s so hard to explain to people what I need and don’t need. I appreciate it when people write posts like these because it makes me feel like I’m not alone and it helps those who don’t have depression understand. Thank you!

    1. Hope you’re ok! Just remember you’re not alone, and I’m always here to listen if you want to talk to someone detached from your life! But we’ll all get through this and everything else life throws at us! x

  8. Really great tips here! It’s so important to treat someone normal when they’re struggling but also know you’re there if they want to talk about it – and I love the tip about phrases to avoid x

  9. These are all great tips! Distracting them and be there when they need, as well as leaving them be when they don’t want to speak about it are the best tips in my opinion. It’s great that we start to speak out more about it, thank you for sharing x

  10. I’m so sorry to hear you struggled with your mental health as a teenager, that must have been so difficult for you. You have shared some great tips here, even though someone may not wish to talk about how they’re feeling, knowing you are there to listen and care for them is a massive help x

  11. Really great tips here, having had lots of friends who have needed to seek help over the years, I think one of the hardest parts is everyone likes their issues handled differently. Checking in but saying you don’t have to talk about it is such an important one x

  12. This post deserves a round of applause!!! Every.Single.Point. is exactly what I would suggest as well. And I’d add, “don’t try and ‘find a solution'” because not everything can be solved. That’s something I’ve had to chat with my mom about a LOT over the years. She always wants to try and fix whatever is making me anxious, but sometimes that just makes things worse. I just want her to say, “I’m here for you and I love you and I’ll come give you a hug if you want it.” Ya know?? I am so thankful that you shared this!

    1. Awww thank you! I’m so grateful that my boyfriend knows that when I’m having a down day or panicked moment, I just need something to eat, a cuddle and to think about something else for a bit! And then when I’ve calmed down, I’m usually ready to talk! xx

  13. This is such a lovely post! The tips you gave and everything about this post is spot on! Sometimes, in a bid to try to make someone feel better, we end up saying things we are not supposed to say and so it was really nice to see a list of things we shouldn’t say to someone struggling with their mental health on here. Also, I really like the idea of asking how they are and letting them be if they don’t wanna talk about it and helping to distract them. Personally, in times when I am struggling with my mental health, the last thing I want is have someone pester me to tell them how I feel when it’s obvious I don’t wanna talk about it.

  14. This was a super informative and thoughtful article. Thanks so much for sharing x

  15. This is one of the best posts I’ve read on mental health. Especially when you included phrases to say and which ones not to say. I know people who are new to this, or don’t know how to comfort someone, so sentences that have good intentions, end up sounding horrible. Just a simple, “I’m here if you want to talk” or “Let it out, and let’s have a walk after.”

    I love how you said to take a walk, or get some movement/exercise in. Usually when I’m in a slump, and I just want to lay down, I need some motivation to start working out. And usually I feel great after that. Thank you Katie for bringing awareness to this, and covering different questions/points!

    https://www.thelazygal.com

  16. This is such great advice and very insightful. I went through something similar at a very young age dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder and severe anxiety attacks as a response to severe trauma and it was not easy or fun. I am glad you came through it.

    Allie of
    http://www.allienyc.com

  17. I am so happy you are sharing this. So many people don’t truly know how to handle someone with a mental illness. It’s good for people to learn what to say and what not to say. I remember telling someone about my anxiety and they just said “haha you silly” and just laughed. It’s sad that people truly don’t know or aware. Glad you are sharing this.

  18. I love how you talk about what not to say – people so often think that by pointing out that things aren’t that bad, they’re helping but really they’re making it worse. Thanks for this!

  19. Thank you for sharing this, Katie. So many people who struggle with mental illness get dismissed and don’t feel seen. It’s good to see someone sharing useful, actionable tips that anyone can do to help a person who is struggling.

  20. Really appreciate this post as I know many people are struggling with their mental health, especially nowadays.

  21. As someone who struggles with mental health problems, these things you explain here help a lot!
    I hate it when people tell me just to cheer up, I mean, IF I COOOOULD!! Thank you spreading the awareness towards mental health!!

  22. Some amazing advice here. When I started struggling with my debilitating anxiety disorder back in 2011, nobody had any idea how to help me or act around me because I’d never suffered with mental illness before. I felt awful and so alone and literally nobody understood.

  23. These are amazingly thoughtful tips! I hate when people say it’s not that bad. I’d rather be distracted! I think it’s also important for people to educate themselves on things. For example, if someone you know has OCD from the pandemic and needs everything to be clean, understand what it means and what could help

    Em x

  24. This is such a thoughtful post, Katie! Beautifully written and really helpful. I, myself, is going through some stuff as well and I can see that a lot of my friends are using some of your brilliant tips xx

  25. It’s great you touched on this topic! It’s really important that people learn how to be there for someone. I often hear and myself have been minimized and it’s just a shitty feeling. We all should learn how to support someone going through a tough time mentally!

  26. I love how you mention that people should try to act normal around someone struggling with their mental health. One of the most hurtful things someone can experience when going through a bad time mentally is to feel like everyone is treating them differently or walking on eggshells. As someone who has been in a position where I was really struggling with my mental health, I can confirm that it makes someone feel…. fragile. Like a ticking time bomb everyone is being super careful with so it doesn’t explode. Great post!

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