Helping someone else
Support from friends, family and health professionals, plays a significant role in the recovery process of someone experiencing a mental health issue. Knowing the most effective way to provide support relieves much of the worry about saying and doing the right thing. Educating yourself about mental illness is really the foundation of support. The Black Dog Institute provides tips, materials and links to e-mental health agencies that help friends, family, and carers gain essential knowledge.
Worried about a family member or close friend?
Mental illness should be taken seriously. It is a significant condition that affects mental and physical health.
It can be hard to know what to do when supporting someone with a mental health issue. Our information is aimed at helping friends, family and carers support their loved ones and take care of themselves too.
You are a crucial and necessary support mechanism, so it's helpful to have access to the right information.
It is important to know what to say and do when you're worried someone you know may have a mental health issue or be thinking about suicide.
Online resources containing tips on how to start this conversation with confidence have been developed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health. Visit the Conversations Matter website.
The online resources can assist you if:
- you want to know how to talk about suicide more generally
- you are worried about someone and want to know what to say
- there has been a death and you want to know how best to handle individual and community level conversations.
What to do to help
If you are worried about a family member or close friend:
- let them know you care and support them
- treat them with respect and dignity
- talk with them about their feelings
- suggest that speaking to someone they feel comfortable with, their GP or other mental health professional, may help them feel better
- offer assistance (i.e. find someone they trust talking with and make the appointment or arrange the meeting, and if they wish, be with them at the time)
Mental health issues in young people, particularly adolescents, should also be taken seriously.
This age group is particularly vulnerable to developing a mental illness.
If you think your son or daughter is showing signs of depression or mania:
- find a time when you can talk to them (preferably in a stress-free setting)
- suggest that they might feel better by getting some help
- suggest that they visit the family GP, a school counsellor, or as a first step a friend or relative they are comfortable talking to.
It can be hard to acknowledge you have a mental health problem.
If your loved one remains uncomfortable with telling you how they are feeling or is not open to seeking help perhaps:
- share information sourced from a health professional or a self-help book with relevant strategies
- provide them with information to access e-mental health resources
- seek guidance from a health professional if their mental health deteriorates or you believe they are at risk of harming themselves or others.
Helping the treatment process
An important part of caring for someone else is supporting the treatment process. Different treatment plans will require different levels of support.
Medication: If medication is prescribed encourage the person to continue their treatment every day.
Counselling or psychotherapy: Counselling or psychotherapy often results in the depressed person 'thinking over' their life and relationships. While this can be difficult for all concerned, it is a significant step in resolving the depression and at times will require a strong support network.
Treatment can help an individual to start to re-engage with the good things in life and carers can have their needs met as well.
Looking after yourself as well
Family members, friends, and carers are also impacted by their loved one experiencing a mental health issue. A strong support network is important for all individuals involved.
Don't forget that as a carer you are also likely to be under stress, as:
- depression and hopelessness have a way of also affecting carers and supporters
- therapy can release difficult thoughts and emotions in carers too.
Part of caring is to care for yourself. Taking the time to care for yourself will help prevent you getting physically rundown and allow you you to deal with the thoughts, emotions and stress that can be associated with caring for someone with a mental illness.
The following information and support services for carers provide tools and resources designed to help you be the best support you can be: