We have all gone through a period of time where we are worried or concerned about a friend or family member’s mental health. During these times, it is often difficult to bring up any concerns you may have. If you are worried about a friend or family member it is important to recognise when you may need to step in and offer support, as well as knowing how to offer support.
How Do I Know if They Need Help?
While it is sometimes easy to discern if someone is feeling depressed or anxious, it is not always obvious. It is important to remember that if you do not notice any signs of mental illness in your friends or family members, you cannot be held accountable.
Below are lists of common symptoms of depression and anxiety – it is however important to note that other symptoms may be present.
Common Signs of Depression:
- Low levels of energy or motivation
- Lack of confidence
- Loss of appetite
- Little interest in activities which they used to enjoy
- Low or irritable moods
Common Signs of Anxiety:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased breathing rates or signs of panic
- Irritability or appearance of stress
- Avoidance of social settings or uncertainties
How Do I Help Them?
The first step to helping a loved one is to let them know that you have noticed a shift in their behaviour. If you have noticed that a friend or family member is acting differently than they normally do, or if they are displaying any signs of mental illness, it is important to find a time to sit down and talk to them about your concerns. This is best done in a situation where there is little to no stress involved, and when you both have time to sit down and discuss the issues they may be facing.
Once you have raised your concerns, take time to discuss the worries and difficulties they have been facing. Give them time to tell you of their feelings, ensuring that you maintain focus and actively listen to their problems. It is important that you validate their thoughts without prying or making them feel pressured to talk. Ensure that you let them lead the conversation at a pace which makes them feel comfortable.
After discussing their concerns, let them know that there are a number of resources not only over the phone or on the internet, but also in person which they can access if they feel necessary. It may be helpful to give them a list of these resources or assist them in accessing the relevant information. Encourage them to seek professional help from their GP or a psychologist and allow them to explore these options. If possible, offer to accompany them to seek help from either a doctor or another friend or family member.
They may be reluctant in discussing this with you, it is important to not take offence in this as their comfort is the main priority. If this is the case, suggest that they seek help from someone who they feel comfortable confiding in and let them know that you are there to listen.
Following the conversation that you have had about their mental health, it is important to offer ongoing support and let them know that you are willing to support them if necessary. Regularly check up on your friend or family member to ensure that they are seeking help when required.