Updated: Aug 8, 2020
1. Acknowledge the condition
Sometimes we tend to overlook the situation and the feelings of a person. We try to normalize the particular situation either by comparing it to a worse probable condition or generalizing it. In either of these conditions, we are ignoring the person. For example, if your friend tells you that they’re experiencing insomnia, our usual reply is to tell them when we faced it. Instead, we can nod and tell them to further talk about it.
“Stop asking them to try harder, they’re already trying a lot”
2. Active listening, Avoid Advising
It is a normal reaction to respond immediately to our loved ones’ needs. But, there are times when we should be active listeners, and not just hear their story. You can be alert and aware when your loved one is sharing about their problem. We tend to provide solutions to fix them, maybe we need to just give them a space to share their feelings safely. They probably know what to do, they find it difficult to do the task. Therefore, listening to them with attention is the best you can do.
P.S – listen to them, it can’t turn into an argument.
“Avoid unsolicited advice, instead hear me out”
3. Make your presence felt or space out
Everyone has a different way of dealing with their emotions and problems. Some people feel they want to be left out. Others, want someone to be around them when they experience a mental breakdown. So don’t assume that it is best to leave or force yourself to stay. Instead, ask what would they prefer and with the time you’ll discover how to support them. Sometimes people want to be in a space of their own that doesn’t mean they don’t want your presence to be felt. It’s tough but you got to strike a balance. For example, leaving a person for the full day alone in the house is risky and sends out negative messages. Maybe checking on them later or dropping a text would allow them to feel your presence.
“It's better to ask – how can I support you?”
4. Unnoticeable Things
There is the day to day conversations and affairs, which might trouble them. It doesn’t have to be someone’s fault to feel low when suffering from a mental health condition. For example, an insensitive comment or things not going as planned can create irritability. Allow the person to display negative emotions. They’re a part of emotional care.
“Anger should be acknowledged only then it will be dealt with”
5. Confusion creates conflict - #3Cs
Yes, confusing conversations, mixed messages, and sudden changes create chaos in their troubled mind. For example, if they like to be alone and a guest arrives at home, be considerate enough to give them some breather. Don’t force and push, give them time to accommodate.
“Let them decide what to do for once”
6. Reassure them you’re there
Remember, giving advice is different from reassuring the person that you’re there for them. You can drop a text message, leave a handwritten note, check for food, and remind them when they’re in doubt that you’re going to be there for them in the darkness.
“Reassurance does miracle but needs you to be patient”
7. Maintain Healthy Boundaries
In every role and relationship, it is very important to maintain healthy boundaries. Neither should you come across as imposing to another person nor should you feel unavailable. Extremes of anything isn’t good for anyone’s health. You need to know when to time-out and time-in for the relationship to last longer and stay healthy.
“Every relation has a do’s and don’ts list”
8. Encourage and Save
When there is a mental health condition, encourage the person to seek help professionally. You can only do as much as possible. You can ask the person and accompany them to a therapist. If you find the person self-harming, try to keep them away from easy access to such resources. It is important to understand the reason for self-harm and acknowledge their pain again and again. Allow them to vent so they don’t need to self-harm.
“Venting will only take place when they feel safe to share”
9. It’s not a Blame-Game
Keep in mind that they’re already struggling and somewhere deep down blaming themselves for feeling this way. The best you can do is avoid blaming them. For example, avoid comments - you’re pretending to feel this way; because of you the house is always in a mess; put your act together because it’s torturous to be with you. Let’s accept them!
“self-blaming does a lot of damage, don’t add to the list”
Acceptance can happen at any level. It takes a long time to heal and a part of it is self-acceptance. It takes courage to accept and be okay to not be okay. So the best you can do is accept them and see them separate from their condition. Empathy is the key that drives acceptance for others.
“Illness is a small part of them, it doesn’t define them”
11. Able and Capable
Mental illnesses do have an invisible streak to them and it is difficult to judge between when a person can perform the task and when they need to pause. You can still consider them able and capable. Let’s not decide for them. Instead, give them support to help make decisions.
“They’re not disabled, they can decide for themselves”
Caution: This isn’t a replacement for professional help or therapeutic aid. These are general things one can do. It may or may not work for some mental health illnesses. Please note, the intensity, duration, and severity of an illness are important for you to help out. To reach out to a person, please follow these general tips!