Identifying when your loved one is struggling
is the first step. You know them well enough so you might be able to figure out what is different with them. But here are a few pointers to guide you in the right direction:
Have they been more withdrawn lately?
Did they stop socializing (virtually for now)?
Have you noticed them not enjoying the things that they used to?
Have they stopped focusing on hygiene?
Are they always tired?
Are they eating too much or too little?
Sleeping too much or too little?
Always on edge?
Okay, so you’ve noticed something is different with them - now what?
1. Try to talk to them
Now, keep in mind there is a good chance they might push you away. They might tell you that they are completely okay and there is nothing to worry about. Depending on how close you are to them, you should be able to identify whether they are actually okay.
Ask them how are they doing? Have an honest conversation with them. You can always start by opening up and telling them how you are doing to make things a bit easier for them.
2. Avoid giving advice
Unless they ask for it, no one is interested in advice. I know your first instinct is to ‘fix’ them and try to do anything to make them feel better. Firstly, they are not broken and do not require any fixing. Secondly, by giving them advice you are diminishing their struggle.
They have probably already tried many things, or they do not have any motivation to try things at this time (yes that happens when you have a mental illness).
3. Acknowledge their feelings
I do believe this is one of the most important aspects when talking to your loved ones. They need reassurance about what they are feeling. Even if you do not completely understand why they are feeling what they are feeling - try to empathize. Never question them - “Oh but you look so happy,” or “You should be grateful for what you have.” These statements just make them feel worse and make them question the validity of their own feelings.
4. Don’t compare
This goes hand-in-hand with point number 2 - don’t give advice. The same way, do not compare situations. Maybe you experienced something that made you sad or upset or anxious and you eventually dealt with it yourself - they don’t want to know that. The reason for this is, everyone has different experiences when it comes to mental health. People do not experience depression the same way - yes, the symptoms are the ‘same.’ The experiences and the way one handles their mental illnesses are extremely different.
The experience that you had cannot compare to the experience that they are having, and vice versa. This is why it is important to acknowledge what they are feeling and try to understand them as your loved ones rather than connecting their experience to one of yours.
5. Read up
If you do not understand what your loved ones are going through - try to learn. Read articles, blogs, listen to videos and podcasts from credible sources. If your loved one is someone who wants to talk about their feelings and what they are experiencing, try to learn from them as well.
Try and go above and beyond to understand the ones you love. Think about it like this, if roles were reversed and you had broken a foot - to what lengths would those that love you try to help? You would be greeted with flowers, food, chocolates, all the support you need till you recovered. Mental health is the same. Having the support of your loved ones during the healing process makes things a bit easier.
6. Judgement-free zone
Offer them a judgement free space where they can fully express themselves if they want to. Listen to them and try to understand without judging their feelings and their emotions. Sometimes our mental illnesses put us in the darkest of places, all we need is love and support from the ones who care about us. We are putting up a facade for everyone else to show that we are okay, we do not want to put one up with the ones that we love.
Bottom line is, we all just want to be heard. Try to focus on listening to what your loved one is saying and what they want rather than speaking and offering advice.
I will stress on this point again, not everyone is the same. Individuals will react differently when asked about their mental health. When your loved one is struggling, you want to be there for them in any way you can. Sit with them, talk to them, do nothing with them, but support them no matter what.
Written by - Anushka Mehta
Your mental health matters as much as your physical health. Don't hesitate to take a step towards your mental well-being. If you’re looking at talking to a professional, book your Initial Consultation with us on https://www.themoodspace.com/freeconsultation or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take a step towards bettering your mental wellbeing because you deserve it!