Mind Your Head
You may have noticed a change in the way a loved one or a friend is behaving or maybe you think they are not coping with a situation. What can you do to help?
If your friend had an accident and broke their leg the first time you saw them you would ask how they are, maybe what happened and if there was anything you could do to help. Why is it that when we are aware that someone is maybe having a difficult time of things or that we notice they are quieter than usual or not going out that we are scared to ask how they are? Is it really that different to them breaking their leg?
Of course you can see a broken leg. When we are worried about somebody’s mental health we are reliant on our personal hunches. These hunches are scary, what if the person we are worried about reacts badly if we share our concerns? A reply of “I'm fine” when you ask if someone is doing okay can leave us not really satisfied that everything is okay and feeling that the conversation is closed. What scares us most about starting that conversation in the first place is the fear they may say they're not fine. In that situation what do you do?
It's really important to remember that you don't have to be an expert on mental health to talk to someone; In the same way that you are not an expert on broken bones! Just asking someone how they are can make a difference because they will know that you are thinking about them and that you care. By just listening then you can help them to open up and get help.
We don't have to be a trained counselor to listen and help someone - opening up for the first time about feelings or things that worry us can be a scary thing to do. Remaining calm and allowing someone to help you to talk about things can mean a lot to someone, especially if they have felt they have nobody to talk to. Try to avoid cliches such as you'll cheer up or pull yourself together and instead be understanding - you don't have to have ever felt like that yourself before to be able to acknowledge that a situation can be difficult for somebody. It's also good to talk about everyday things too. How we are feeling, especially if we are unwell, is not the whole person. Talking about normal things like you always would helps the person to feel normal.
Check out our mental health problems to find out more information on symptoms of different illnesses as well as where to get help and how you can help too. This is not about helping to diagnose someone - this is about thinking about whether the person needs more professional help. Sometimes it is enough to talk about a problem but sometimes a person can be unwell and it is important to help them to know if they need assistance.
And if your friend or loved one needs professional help then support them in making an appointment, for example with the GP and offer to come with them. Taking the first steps are the most difficult and supporting someone in those first difficult steps is so important.
If you are providing long term support then please visit our section with advice for carers.
Don't be afraid to ask someone if they have had suicidal thoughts or if they are thinking of suicide. There is a mis-conception that by simply asking that you are putting the idea into their head. Openly listening and discussing someone's thoughts of suicide can be a source of relief. Asking and listening are the first important steps. If you feel out of your depth then remember there are people out there who can help. Encourage the person to make an appointment with their GP (offer to accompany them to the health centre) or contact a helpline such as the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or Breathing Space 0800 83 85 87.
If the person has an immediate suicide plan and means to carry it out then do not leave them alone - get help immediately by phoning 999.
We have provided information on a number of mental health problems within this section. This can help tackle some of the myths and stigma surrounding mental health problems but also provide details of where to find out more information or access support in Shetland.Find out more
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