Here at FFFN, we often receive messages and read comments on our socials about how people are supporting loved ones who are experiencing mental health challenges.
As humans, we instinctively want to protect and care for those we see are suffering. When that person is a family member or friend, someone we have an emotional connection with, the desire to help is fervent.
As opposed to helping someone who has visibly injured themselves, where we can put a band-aid on a cut or an ice-pack on a sprain, it can be a lot harder to know what to do when supporting someone with a mental health concern, condition or disorder.
Knowing how to approach a loved one who is suffering is very subjective. There is no rule book or instruction manual on how to start a conversation about mental health. One person’s battle can differ so much from the next and contributing factors may be sensitive and private.
While there is great awareness within our society nowadays, far more than there ever was before, the area of mental health is still a minefield. So, how do we help someone we care about who is suffering with their mental health? There is no hard and fast answer to this question.
There are, however, different ways to let someone you care about know that you are there for them. It may not be possible to provide anything other than an ear to bend or a shoulder to lean on, and that’s ok. Just having someone aware that they are not alone and they are loved and cared for can make such a difference.
If you are caring for a family member or close friend, it is vital to treat them with respect, dignity and sensitivity and reassure them that whatever they say to you will remain confidential and private. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, recommend they contact a doctor or mental health professional who they feel comfortable and safe with and even provide assistance by making an appointment for them (with their consent) and/or offer to attend with them if they feel uncomfortable going alone.
You may be worried about someone who doesn’t recognise or acknowledge that they are experiencing psychological challenges, or they may not feel comfortable discussing their circumstances with you. In this instance, if you become increasingly concerned about a loved one’s safety and welfare, you yourself can seek guidance from a healthcare professional. They may be able to provide you with resources, information and appropriate strategies.
Another aspect of caring for a loved one who is experiencing mental health concerns is supporting their treatment process. Being positive and encouraging about counselling and psychotherapy, medication and other ways they are managing their struggles can all aide in your loved one’s re-engagement with the good things in their life.
It is vital to ensure that as a carer, you are also being supported and are having your own needs met. Seeing a loved one suffering in any capacity can be distressing. Taking time for self-care can help to prevent you from becoming rundown and can allow you to deal with thoughts and emotions associated with supporting someone with a mental health condition.
In summary, here is a shortlist of things to consider when supporting a loved one with a mental health condition or disorder:
- Be available for your loved one but remember to also self-preserve if things become overwhelming for you
- Educate yourself on available support services and resources in the local community. There is more to mental health treatment than just consulting a psychologist and taking medication
- If as a support person, you can afford to financially contribute money towards their welfare, offer to pay for private health insurance. This will allow for faster access to private hospital facilities if your loved one becomes unwell enough to require round-the-clock care and will help with the financial outlay of psychiatric treatment
- Accept the fact that you may not be able to “fix” a loved one or stop their suffering. Mental health is complex and multifaceted and treatments take time; there is no magic wand
I hope that whoever you are and wherever you are, you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.
Catch you in the next blog!
Certain topics discussed in FFFN’s blogs include content relating to mental health, suicide and other triggers. If you are experiencing any mental health concerns, please contact your GP or nearest healthcare facility. In the event of an emergency, please call 000. For community support, please reach out to Lifeline, Beyond Blue or other credible mental health organisations. FFFN do not provide any professional mental health or medical advice and/or treatment.