Hi, how are you doing?…
It’s funny how many times you either hear this or say this in a day, but how many people answer that question truthfully? Would you know how to support someone whose mental health you were concerned about?
Approaching someone and speaking to them about how they are really feeling emotionally is one of the hardest things for someone to do. It can also cause your anxiety levels to rise. But evidence shows that early recognition and intervention makes a big difference to how quickly someone recovers.
Did you know mental health conditions cost the UK employer over £34 billion per year in lost production, recruitment, and staff absence? Looking at the statistics, it’s estimated that around 1 in 4 of us will suffer with a mental health condition at some point in our lives. In today’s fast pace of life that we live in, it’s never been more important to know how to support a college, family member or friend with a mental health condition.
If you are concerned that someone you know may be experiencing mental ill health, it is important to know how to approach and assist them.
The following are 3 simple things to remember when approaching and supporting a person with a mental health concern:
Step 1 – PLAN YOUR APPROACH
Think about where that person would feel relaxed and at ease; an environment that might be suitable for one person may be inappropriate for another, so we need to take a person-centred approach. A couple of suggestions could be a walk in the park or a meet up in the coffee shop.
Step 2 – PROACTIVELY TALK TO THEM ABOUT YOUR CONCERNS
Due to the stigma around mental health issues, people sometimes can find it hard to initiate a conversation about how they are feeling, so it’s important to be confident to initiate the conversation about your concerns. For someone to feel safe to open up about how they are really feeling takes a lot of courage, especially if it’s the first time that they have ever spoken to someone about it, so once you have initiated a conversation with them, give them constant reassurance.
Below are a few questions that you could ask:
- How are you doing at the moment?
- You seem a bit down/upset/frustrated – is everything ok?
- I care about you and want to be able to support you. I would like to know as much as you feel comfortable talking about.
- I’ve noticed that you haven’t been around much and I’m wondering if everything is ok?
- Is there anything you would like to have a chat about?
- How long have you felt unwell?
- Is this an ongoing issue or something that an immediate action could put right?
It’s important to respect the person’s privacy and confidentiality unless you are concerned about them harming themselves or others. Be mindful of their personal space. If they feel anxious, they may be more sensitive to keeping their personal space and feel more anxious and uncomfortable if you approach them.
Step 3 – SUPPORTING THAT PERSON TO GET APPROPRIATE PROFESSIONAL HELP
Let them know that mental health illness is common. It is important to install hope for recovery by letting the person know what treatment is available. There are many different professionals who can help with anxiety. The first source of help will usually be the GP.
A GP can:
- Give the individual a physical examination to ensure there are no underlying physical concerns
- Advise some additional self-help strategies that are available
- Assess if medication would help the individual with their anxiety (antidepressants that are used to treat depression have also been known to help anxiety disorders)
- Refer to other professionals who can offer more specialist assessment and/or treatment, including psychotherapy and counselling
- Educate about the nature of the anxiety disorder
- Look at options such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
If they tell you that they don’t want to seek help, try and find out the reason why. For example, maybe they have had a bad experience with a doctor in the past, fear of stigma can be a massive barrier for someone who needs help and support, or maybe they are concerned about the cost of the treatment or having to wait a long time to see a doctor that they like. By exploring the different reasons with them, you may be able to help the person overcome their worry about seeking help. It is important to let them know that you are here for them if they change their mind. You must respect their decision not to want help unless it is deemed that they are at risk to themselves or others.
Other professionals that can help support the person with anxiety are counsellors and psychotherapists. Generally, only people with persistent or server difficulties are likely to be referred to specialist mental help services and receive treatment from psychiatrists.
You can also encourage the person to consider other supports that they may find useful to help with their anxiety and let them decide which ones they would prefer.
Due to the busy lives we lead today, we often struggle to find time to do things that are good for our mental wellbeing and we often use unhelpful coping strategies to deal with the stress that we come across.
In 2008, the 5 ways to wellbeing were first summed up by the New Economics Foundation which used global evidence-based research to create a set of actions people could use to improve their own wellbeing.
Encouraging our friends, families and colleagues to make time for these in their lives will make a big difference to the wellbeing of the communities that we live in.
The 5 ways to wellbeing are:
Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.
2. BE ACTIVE
Go for a walk or a run. Step outside, cycle, dance. Exercise helps boost your self-esteem. It also helps you sleep, concentrate, look and feel better. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy, one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.
3. TAKE NOTICE
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment – whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.
4. KEEP LEARNING
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for a course. Take on a new responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument
or cook your favourite food. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being more fun.
Do something nice for a friend or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look outside as well as in. Seeing yourself and your happiness linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
Remember what the statistics say: around 1 in 4 of us will suffer with a mental health condition at some point in our lives. On a personal note, the chances are you will be affected either directly or indirectly at some point in your life.
It’s time to break the stigma around mental health. Do your part and be a role model. Lead by example when it comes to mental wellbeing and make a difference to the community you live in.
Nimble Elearning will be hosting a 2-day Accredited Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at Nimble House, Stonehouse Gloucestershire, September 18 & 19. On completion of the course, you will receive a certificate that will qualify you as an accredited Mental Health First Aider and an MHFA England Manual.
The course will be conducted by Dan Lane, Accredited Instructor and Training Manager from Espirita Workforce Solutions
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is an internationally recognised training course, designed to teach people how to spot the signs and symptoms of mental ill health and provide help on a first aid basis. In the same way as learning physical first aid, MHFA teaches people how to recognise those crucial warning signs of mental ill health and feel confident to guide someone to appropriate support. Embedding MHFA training within any organisation or community also encourages people to talk more freely about mental health, reducing stigma and creating a more positive culture.
Find out more here:
*Additional dates in London for MHFA courses are 11 & 12 September and 17 & 18 October.
Find out more here: https://mhfaengland.org/course-booking-form/?id=520a2e4e-5c95-e811-b96f-00155d677d1c