Supporting A Friend Or Family Member With Their Mental Health

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There is a lot of information out there and on these blogs about how to support your mental health and how to look after yourself. But what do we do if the person suffering from their mental health isn’t ourselves but a friend or family member? It can be hard to know what is the right thing to do or to say in certain situations when supporting a friend or family member with their mental health. This article will offer you some ideas on how to help your loved ones.

It can be very difficult to see someone who you care about becoming unwell, but you don’t need to be an expert on mental health to offer support. Small, everyday actions can make the biggest difference.

Show Your Support

If you know someone has been unwell then don’t be afraid to ask them how they are doing. They may choose to open up and talk to you about it, they may not, but just asking them shows that you are there to listen and to help them. Starting the conversation shows the person that they don’t have to avoid the issue with you, and that is important. Just spending time with loved ones shows that you care and it can help you to understand what they are going through.

These are some questions you could use to show you are being supportive:

  • I’ve been worried about you. Can we talk about what you are experiencing? If not, who are you comfortable talking to?
  • I am someone who cares and wants to listen. What do you want me to know about how you are feeling?
  • It seems like you are going through a difficult time. How can I help you?

Ways to Help

Everyone will want help in different ways and at different times. If your loved one is struggling with their mental health then they may not know what they need at that moment. In the meantime ways you can help could include:

  • Keeping track of medication
  • Go along to doctors appointments so you can remind them what has been said
  • Take them out for exercises or a walk
  • Get them into a regular sleeping pattern
  • Include them in social gatherings, even if they continually refuse invites.
  • Complete everyday tasks for them (washing, cleaning, cooking etc) until you are confident they can do these for themselves

Be Open-Minded

If you are not a sufferer of mental health it can be hard to understand the thoughts and feelings that your loved one is experiencing. Saying things such as “Cheer up”, “Pull yourself together” and “Calm down” are not helpful, especially if they are experiencing a bad episode and can make the person feel like their condition is being made fun of. You have to try to not be judgmental and remember that they aren’t choosing to feel or act like this. Someone who suffers from mental health will often know what is best to help them.

Remember Who They Are

Don’t just discuss mental health with your loved one. They are still themselves and still have the same likes as before so it is important to remember that. Most people don’t want to be defined by their mental health problems so keep talking about the things you always have done. Keep doing the things you have always done together unless they don’t feel like they can at that moment. Treat your loved ones with respect for the person who they are, that will help them to rebuild their self-esteem which their mental health problem may have seriously damaged.

Look After Yourself

This is important as supporting a friend with their mental health can often become stressful. Make sure you look after yourself so that you can continue to offer strength and support to your loved one.

  • Set boundaries and don’t try to take on too much
  • Share your caring role with others if you can. It is often easier to support someone if you aren’t doing it alone.
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling but be careful not to share too much information about the person you are supporting.

All clinicians at Oxford CBT practice Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or are Psychologists, providing evidence-based interventions and support for a range of issues for both young people and adults. If you would like to book an appointment you can do so on our online booking portal. If you have a question please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 01865 920077.


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Get in touch with us and we will assess your needs and expertly pair you with the right clinician and services to get you on the path to embracing life.

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