Today is World Mental Health Day – a day that brings mental health to the forefront of everyone’s thoughts and minds. While it’s estimated that 1 in 4 of us in the UK have a mental health issue, the degree of severity and cause can differ dramatically per individual.
If you have a friend, sibling, parent, spouse, colleague or child whom you suspect is suffering from low mood, anxiety, depression or stress, then don’t ignore the symptoms.
Worrying about money, work, health and family can all affect how someone is feeling and reacts as a consequence.
It’s often very hard to know what to do or how to be around someone with a mental health issue, especially if it’s someone very close to you, but small things can make all the difference. Here are just a few things you could try to make things a little better…
Just be there
Sometimes, it’s just enough to be there for someone when they need you. Mental illness can be a lonely journey, so having someone you can rely on and call on in a time of need can make all the difference.
If you know someone is suffering, make sure that they are involved in your weekly plans. If they don’t feel like going out, pop round to make them a cup of tea or arrange a regular time to chat over the phone or Facetime. That way, they will know that you are thinking of them, which could create a positive reaction to their emotions.
Let them speak openly
Advice is good, but only when it is has been requested. A lot of the time, it’s just far better to simply sit and listen. Silence is golden after all. If someone is stressed out or worried, they may have a thousand things floating around their head, so it will help to release these thoughts by telling someone out loud exactly what they are thinking.
Not everyone will want to (or be able to afford to) chat to a special therapist about their thoughts and feelings, so be prepared to take on that role for your friend and let them openly download whatever is on their mind. Being discreet is also a key feature here – mental health is largely a private matter, so ensure you keep things confidential. That is unless you really fear for someone’s safety and wellbeing – in this case, it’s always best to seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Send them a surprise
Everyone loves a surprise. Most of all when you are feeling down. Does your friend love banoffee pie or painting pictures? If so, pop by with a freshly baked pie, or some new paints and a pad for them to be creative with. These things don’t have to be extravagant or expensive – just a small gesture could be enough to bring a huge smile to someone’s face. And, it might just be the first smile they have managed to raise for a very long time.
Many people find yoga lessons or exercise classes helpful in lifting their mood, so invite your friend or colleague to come along with you to a class, and maybe even treat them to a free pass to show you care? It might be the start of a regular routine that helps to free your friend of some of their symptoms.
Educate others around you
Mental health issues can be hard to understand for those who’ve never suffered before. Therefore, it’s common for those people to discriminate or judge those who are suffering.
Within your circle, try to explain the causes and symptoms of mental health to those who are not fully aware. Also, chat openly to your kids from a young age, letting them know that they can always talk to you and that it’s okay to not always feel okay.
Educating children about mental health from a young age can help them to identify symptoms in themselves, should they occur or be more accepting to others around them at school or elsewhere.