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How can I be supportive?

It can be difficult to see someone we care about becoming unwell, but you don't have to be a trained expert to support someone with their mental health. We know it can be hard sometimes to know what to do or where to start, but sometimes even the smallest actions can have a big impact.

Show up.

Mental health struggles can often make people feel like they are alone in their situation. If you know someone who is feeling unwell, don't be afraid to ask them how they are. They might want to talk about it, they might not, don't force it. Sometimes, even if they're not ready to speak about it, knowing someone is there for them can have a massive impact. Let them know they don't have to avoid the situation around you and that you care about them.

Ask how you can help.

Every person is different, and every situation affects everyone's mental health a bit differently. Everyone needs some support at different times and in different ways, so try just asking if there's anything you can do to help. It might look like giving some support at a doctor's appointment or even just doing some food shopping for them. If they want some exercise you could try doing this together, or if they're having trouble sleeping you could help them get into a regular sleeping pattern.

Be open-minded.

Phrases like "cheer-up", "man-up", "I'm sure it'll pass" and "it's not that bad" are not helpful. In fact, they can have a negative effect on someone's mental health. Instead, try to listen without judgement. If someone chooses to open up to you about their struggles with mental health, assure them that they're doing the right thing in talking about it and don't be judgemental.

Don't just focus on their situation.

Often, people with a mental health issue don't want to be defined by their struggle. When you speak to them, don't just speak about mental health or their particular situation, try talking about things you would usually speak about. It can assure them that their life isn't completely dictated by their situation and can bring a sense of normality to their day.

Look after yourself.

Supporting someone else can be stressful and emotionally draining. Making sure that you look after your own wellbeing can mean that you have the energy and strength you need to be able to help. Here's a few things you can do to look after your own wellbeing:

  • Set boundaries - don't take too much on. If you become unwell you won't be able to offer support to anyone. If you feel like you're taking on too much, take a step back.

  • Share the role - share your support role with others if you can. Supporting someone can be made much easier if there's multiple people offering support.

  • Share your feelings - you may want to be careful how much information you share about the person you're supporting, but talking about your feelings can offer you the support you need too.

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