Supporting someone with poor mental health can be frustrating and difficult— even more, when you don’t know how to cope with their situation or how to respond to what they are saying.
You may want to say, “Why don’t you just think positive? It will all get better” or “Just pray” or “Everyone feels that sometimes”. But by saying this, you might be doing more harm than good.
So what should you exactly do? I am certain you want to be there for your loved ones when they are going through such a difficult time (I absolutely adore this side of human beings: they all gather together to help whenever someone is in a pinch.) I am so glad you all are here and I commend you for your enthusiasm to help out those in need.
Although I am no professional, through my experience and study, I have found some guidelines and I would love to share them which all of us could follow to be of the slightest help. Happy Reading!
Create a safe space to talk.
Probably more important than anything is creating a safe space where they could express themselves. Connection between two human beings can create wonders, and you being there to hear them out could possibly be a milestone in their improvement. While you create that space for them to express, don’t judge them or diagnose them. Just hear them out. Even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, listen to them. Show respect to their thoughts and be very serious about what they are saying. They want to be heard and validated and your presence could help them ease their emotions significantly.
I am certain most of us have watched Good Will Hunting. Well, who’d miss out on a classic? (If you haven’t, I am not judging you.) Remember the sessions where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck just stay silent the whole time? It accurately portrayed how you should communicate with people having poor mental health. Don’t force them to talk. If they wish to speak, great! You hear them. If they don’t, it’s totally fine. Rather, just like Ben Affleck, who opened up to Matt Damon with his totally cool story, you could also vocalize your emotions so that they could feel easier in conveying themselves.
Hmm, how about the questions? What should you ask or how should you talk?
Ask open-ended questions. For instance, “How are you feeling today, bud?” or “Do you want to talk about anything?” or, “I’m worried about you— can we talk about what you’re experiencing?” Don’t make them feel rigid and uptight. While talking, be absolutely calm and just listen. You are not a therapist and you cannot try to assume what a therapist would say. You are there to listen, listen and listen, carefully. Also, don’t rage out even if something offends you. Remember, this is not about you. From your side, you have to be a friend and always remind them that you are there to listen.
Make them feel included.
Besides hearing them out, make them feel included. Don’t make them feel as a social outcast. Hosting a party or going for movies with friends? Invite them over. The feeling of social validation is special for every human being, and this will make them genuinely happy. Furthermore, you could also include yourself in their life. Maybe offer help with whatever they are doing. Or with their small everyday tasks. Just ask, “What else can I help you with?”
Last but not least, know your limits.
It’s great being there for your dear ones. But you have to know your limits. Recognize the signs. If they say anything at all that is worrying— even if you think it may or may not mean anything, let their family know and get them professional help. Your small steps could save lives.
All in all, provide them emotional support, support a healthy lifestyle, and connect them to help. It is bound to make things better. Have a wonderful day, everyone.
— Bibatshu, Kathmandu
* This is a submitted post *
Read more essays here, articles here and poetry here. View some art here.