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 were, maybe what happened, and was there anything you could do to help. Why is it that when we become aware that someone seems to be having a difficult time, or we notice they are quieter or out of sort, that we feel nervous about asking them how they are? Is it really that different to them breaking their leg?
It is often our personal hunches that makes us aware that somebody's state of mind might not be quite right. These hunches are scary; what if the person reacts badly if we share our concerns with them? A reply of “I'm fine” when you ask someone if they are okay can leave us feeling that everything isn't okay and the subect is closed. In that situation what do you do?
You don't have to be an expert on mental health to talk to someone! Just asking someone how they are, can make a big difference. Allowing someone to to talk about things can mean a lot to them, especially if they have felt they had nobody to talk to. Just knowing that you are thinking about them, and that you care, can be a big help. By listening and being supportive they may feel able to open up, and if need be, get help. It might not happed straight away- opening up for the first time about feelings or things that worry us can be a scary thing to do, so be patient.
Try not to focus on their feelings too much, it's also good to talk about everyday things- talking about normal things helps the person to feel normal too.
Check out our mental health problems to find out more information on the 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 - it's about thinking about whether the person needs professional help. And if your friend or loved one needs professional help, then support them in making an appointment, for example, offer to come with them to their GP. Taking the first steps are the most difficult, so having support in those first difficult steps can be really 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