Managing mental health when supporting others

There are plenty of healthy ways to support your own wellbeing while supporting others.

Ensure your loved one gets the best support possible

Supporting someone who is experiencing mental illness can be confronting.

It’s natural to want someone you care about to get the best support possible, and it’s okay that you cannot give someone all the support they need by yourself.

There are plenty options for support for people who are struggling with their mental health, as well as the people that love and care for them.

There are plenty of healthy ways to support your own wellbeing while supporting others.

Recognising when someone is struggling

Seeing someone you care about experiencing emotional distress and feeling hopeless can be tough.

The signs someone is struggling can vary from person to person.

What to look for includes (but is not limited to):

  • Feeling restless, agitated, angry, aggressive or tearful
  • Being tired or lacking in energy
  • Not replying to messages or being distant
  • Not wanting to talk, be with people or do they usually enjoy
  • Talking about feeling trapped, hopeless, helpless or worthless
  • Engaging in risk-taking behaviour like gambling or violence
  • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
  • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things
  • A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating more or less than normal
  • Changes to their situation – grief, relationship and family problems, financial/housing/job stress, bullying/abuse/neglect, loneliness, challenging current events, painful and/or disabling physical illness.

Source: Samaritans

The power of knowing your options

We cannot support our loved ones all by ourselves.

As much as we may want to, we cannot resolve their challenges and their reactions to them.

Approximately 1 in 6 British workers, at any one time, will experience depression, anxiety or problems related to stress (Source: reactfirst).

Understanding and utilising external support services is an essential part of being part of someone’s support network.

This knowledge ensures our loved one can get the best support and treatment possible, enabling us to manage our emotional wellbeing.

Examples of this support are:

  • Knowing the name/contact number of their GP
  • Knowing if they take any medications
  • Enrolling in mental health first aid courses
  • Finding out the contact numbers for emergency and non-emergency mental health situations

Referring our loved ones to seek professional help is not a sign of failure.

We trust professionals to service our vehicles, maintain our homes and valued possessions and it makes sense for us to seek professional support for ourselves and loved ones when it is necessary.

When supporting someone with mental illness – a loved one or even a colleague – there can be situations which are outside of our capacity to resolve.

If someone is suicidal

Suicide can be prevented, and it’s important to take suicidal thoughts and behaviours seriously.

There are a range of support services you can access via phone, text and online.

If a loved one is expressing suicidal thoughts, you can utilise mental health first aid techniques to navigate the situation.

When helping someone who is suicidal:

  • If you think they may be suicidal, ask them directly – i.e. ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’
  • If they say yes, do not leave them alone
  • Talk to them, actively listen be supportive
  • Link the person with professional help, such as Samaritans (116 123), NHS (111) or Shout (85258)
  • To get advice or ask for an urgent GP appointment if you need mental health help urgently and it’s not an emergency, you cannot get through to your local NHS mental health helpline or you’re not sure what to do – call 111
  • In an emergency – if someone’s life is at risk or you do not feel you can keep yourself or someone else safe – call 999
Ways you can look after yourself

There is no ‘one size fits all’ way to support someone with a mental illness. How you support someone will depend on you and the person you care for.

Whether someone’s mental illness is acute or they’re living with a chronic, even lifelong condition, you can be a functional and effective member of someone’s support network by:

  • Learning about the illness from reliable sources
  • Looking after your emotional health
  • Seeking out practical measures and support tools which can help make life easier
  • Setting boundaries and encouraging their independence
  • Encourage them to utilise support services like therapy, EAP programs or crisis support lines

Source: Rethink

Living with balance

Knowing when we can and cannot support someone is important and healthy part of maintaining our wellbeing.

If you are already signed up to CiC’s EAP, our counsellors can give you the tools to better direct your priorities and achieve your personal goals.