Mental ill health comes in many forms. It can affects people of all ages and each person differently. If you are currently supporting someone who is experiencing poor mental health, it can be very difficult to know what to do and how to respond. Given that the festive season is a joy for many, it can also be a miserable time for others and can exacerbate the symptoms of those affected by mental ill health. Here at the Frank Bruno Foundation we have put together 7 short tips on how you might provide support someone in this position
Try to be patient, encouraging, and honest with the person you are supporting. It is common to feel that for every step forward there are several backward steps, promises may not always be delivered on, or that you and the person you are trying to help may be going round in circles. Do listen, but do not try to be the person to fix the difficultly as this could be more harmful than beneficial in the short and long term.
Be clear whether you are the best person to provide support at this time. Do you have sufficient time, energy and personal resources? Are there issues that you may be facing that could affect your ability to help or how you see the person who requires?
Consider your personal boundaries. It is important that you do not try to take on too much, or to develop in the person you are seeking to support, unrealistic expectations about what you are able to, and for how long.
Ensure that you take care of yourself and that you are well supported. You will not be in a position to provide support if your own health and mental wellbeing is poor or is unduly comprised by your role as a supporter.
If the person you are supporting has been given a diagnosis, try to find out as much as you can about the specific illness. While there are some excellent resources available online, please bear in mind that some may present a ‘worst case scenario’ and should be read with caution and this in mind.
Try to encourage the person you are supporting to engage in the following activities which are known to improve levels of wellbeing: paying attention to their diet, levels of exercise, sleep, getting out and connecting with others and, where relevant, cutting down on smoking, drinking and illicit substances.
Encourage the person you are supporting to seek help as soon as possible. The type of help will depend on the person and what may best suit them, the nature of mental ill health and the severity of their systems. Help can be obtained from a GP who will help open the gateway to specialist services, reputable online resources such as NHS direct, charities dedicated to providing mental health services, counsellors, therapists or self-help groups.