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How to help a loved one struggling with their mental health

Overcoming a mental disorder is a long process that requires patience (Photo: Shutterstock)

One of the struggles mental health sufferers have is feeling alone. It can be difficult (i) knowing that you need help (ii) explaining to family and friends what is bothering you and (iii) allowing them to help. It’s a long, lonely road.

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If you know someone who is struggling with their mental health, one of the worst things you can tell them is to cheer up and let it go. The truth is that it’s not that simple. For some people, their minds become a prison and try as they might, they can’t get out of it. Overcoming a mental disorder is a long process that requires patience. There are ups and downs, good days and bad. For some conditions it can be years before they start to feel ‘normal’ again while for others, it’s a lifelong struggle. That’s why they need all the support that they can get. 

Below are some ways you can help a loved one who is struggling with their mental health.

1. Get as much information on the condition as possible

If your loved one comes to you with their diagnosis, do your research. Look for credible sources of information and avoid myths and hearsay. There are a number of resources online that you can use or visit local counselling centres that will help you understand the condition and what is required to help the patient recover.

2. Ask them how they feel

No two patients are the same so it’s important to find out how your loved one feels. Don’t assume that just because you know someone else who is suffering from depression that you know exactly what to do. Triggers, episodes and care are different from patient to patient. 

In the case of a patient who hasn’t got a diagnosis yet, encourage them to speak up about their feelings. Without being too pushy, suggest seeking professional help. 

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With their consent, get them some help (Photo: Shutterstock)

3. Ask how you can help

Don’t assume that the solutions you have read online will help your loved one. Like we said above, patients are different and their needs differ from one to the other. At the same time, be open-minded. They may or may not accept your help. 

4. Be their safe space

One of the best things you can do for a mental health patient is to allow them to talk. Opening up about their feelings is difficult and they need to know that they won’t be judged or ridiculed. Avoid belittling their feelings or discussing what you’ve been told in confidence with others. Make it so that whenever they feel an episode coming on, they turn to you for support.

5. Get an outlet

It can be burdensome carrying the weight of a mental illness. You will experience fear, stress, anger, etc. and thus need an outlet. Look for a counsellor or trusted friend who will guide you through this troubling time. They will be able to help you find solutions to problems you previously found impossible to solve. They will listen to your frustrations and help you remain objective.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke

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