Mental health challenges are not easy. What makes it worse is the stigma associated with it. People refrain from getting professional help because they fear being ridiculed. What everyone needs to understand is that a mental health challenge is the same as a physical health challenge. Both need the right treatment to get better.
Another issue is not knowing how to help a person who is going through a mental health challenge. People around might want to help but may be unsure of what to say or they may be afraid of saying the wrong thing. This leads to them either distancing themselves or pretending normalcy.
This blog hopes to throw some light on how friends and family can help a person who is facing mental health issues. While getting professional help is best, listed below are some ways by which friends and family can help.
It is an emotion everyone feels. It is not always a negative emotion as sometimes it can have positive effects. It can prevent us from being taken advantage of, it can motivate us and it can help us overcome obstacles. Only when the anger is uncontrolled and causes harm to the person or to friends/family does it become an issue.
Helping a Person with Anger
- Maintain calm. This will prevent anger build up.
- Communication is key – listen without being judgmental.
- If the situation is worsening, stop the conversation and give each other space.
- Try to identify what usually sets off the anger.
- Safety is paramount so decide what to do if you feel the situation is getting out of hand.
Anxiety can be described as a feeling of stress or apprehension about something that could possibly happen in the future. When anxiety reaches such a proportion that it interferes with normal activities, professional help should be sought.
Helping a Person with Anxiety
- Be patient. Do not force them to confront their fears.
- Read up on anxiety – this will give a better perspective.
- Listen to them when they talk.
- Ask them about what you can do to help them when they feel anxious.
A feeling of sadness that doesn’t seem to go away and lasts for quite some time ultimately affecting normal functioning is called depression. It ranges in intensity from mild to severe – in its severe form it could lead to suicidal feelings.
Helping a Person Handle Depression
- Talk to them and let them decide if they want to talk about depression or if they would rather talk about something else.
- If you cannot understand what they are experiencing, read about it. Do not brush aside their feelings or fears or badger them to ‘get over it’.
- Keep in touch and let them know you are available if they need your presence.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
This involves two categories:
Obsessions: Unwanted thoughts, images, etc. that keep popping into one’s mind without any control.
Compulsions: A need to perform an action repeatedly to reassure oneself.
Helping a Person with OCD
- Let them know you are available to talk about their obsessions/fears.
- When they open up to you, do not look disturbed.
- Let them know you do not think badly of them for these thoughts and reassure them that they have your unconditional support.
- Don’t get irritated with their obsessions and do not try to reason it out with them. If that were possible, it would not be a problem in the first place.
In bipolar disorder, a person’s emotional state is affected. There will be periods of time during which the person feels exuberant and energetic and also times when the person feels sad and listless. During these periods, the person can also exhibit some psychotic symptoms.
Helping a Person with Bipolar Disorder
- Talk to the person when he is not having an episode and find out what you can do to help.
- During an episode, maintain calm.
- When a person is having an episode, what he believes at that time, is real for him though it might sound absurd to others. Don’t challenge the situation. Instead, calmly acknowledge that it feels real for him.
- Be patient and don’t pass judgements.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder
This refers to the feeling of anxiety some people have when it comes to their appearance. Being overly critical of their own appearance and indulging in obsessive actions to better it, are typical of this disorder. People having this condition may avoid going out; it can also affect their work and personal relationships.
Helping a Person with Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Help them talk about it – this is often the first step towards getting better.
- Often it might be difficult to understand a person who has BDD especially as you might not find anything wrong with their appearance. Do not label them as self-absorbed and instead understand that it is a medical condition that is real for them that needs treatment.
- Encourage them in other things in which they are good at and be appreciative.
- Make sure you acknowledge even the small steps they take towards getting better.
Going through any event that causes worry, stress or sadness is called trauma. The event that causes trauma is different for every person – it can even be one single event, but its effects can last for a long time.
Helping a Person with Trauma
- Be there for them when they want to talk about it.
- Listen without offering your thoughts on how you think they should handle it.
- Keep whatever has been shared with you to yourself. Do not talk it over with common friends or contacts.
Discussed above, are just a few of the many mental challenges people face. There are many others too, all of which can be treated with professional help. If you know someone who is going through a mental health issue, encourage them to seek help. With the right treatment, everyone can lead happy, normal lives.