With each passing day, there is an increase in the number of people being affected by mental health concerns. These mental health concerns not only have an impact on the overall functioning of the individual experiencing these issues but also pose a problem for the individuals surrounding them. Most often, due to the prevailing stigma around mental health problems, our society often fails to teach us how to respond to someone suffering from such a concern and how to extend our care and support in an appropriate way. Thereby leaving us perplexed and overwhelmed when faced with such a challenge. Purva Kadaganchi, a renowned clinical psychologist in India and a former psychologist at the Center for Mental Health tells about a few ways in which you can support your loved ones and ease their suffering.
When having to take care of or be around a person having mental health difficulties, each one of us would have different ways of doing so. Where one person might develop feelings of guilt and wonder whether they are the cause for their loved ones suffering, another person might be enraged by the feelings of how can their loved one think, feel or behave in a particular way. Hence, our own beliefs and perspectives would dictate our reaction towards our loved ones suffering from mental health concerns.
- The first and the best way to start helping our loved ones is to join them in their experiences and not to dismiss their thoughts and feelings. It is very common for us to say that how can you feel sad about this or what’s there for you to feel hopeless or why do you even think about it so much. It is alright for you to feel surprised about what your loved one is experiencing.
- It is important to remember that your loved one needs more support than judgment during this phase of his/her life.
- The simplest way of showing support and acceptance is by verbally acknowledging their pain and letting them know that you are there for them and that you are going to stand beside them in this difficult journey.
- Rather than attempting to fix their problems, all they need you to do is just listen and respond to them with compassion. When do they tell you how they feel, saying something like- “I am sorry that you feel this way but I am really glad that you opened up to me, What can I do for you? How can I help you”, conveys that you care for the person and are always going to be there for him/her? It encourages the person to share his/her vulnerability than hiding in their own shell, suffocating, and suffering on their own.
- One needs to subtly remind their loved one of the positives that are still present in his/her life. The loved ones need to be reminded of their strengths and that they have it in them to overcome this situation. Communicating something as simple as “I believe in you” helps in sending across a message that you want to help them believe in themselves without minimizing their problems at the same time.
- At times it is even completely alright to just sit quietly whenever appropriate or to acknowledge that one is short of words (saying I don’t know what to say). Your presence and willingness to be with the person helps them to feel that though they are going through a difficult time they do not have to go face it on their own.
- Another important thing you need to do in order to effectively help your loved one is to try and gain more information about what your loved one is going through. For example, if your partner is suffering from depression, then familiarizing yourself with the condition will help you in knowing how to respond to the behaviors that your loved one is having and at the same time know what things to expect as well as not expect from your loved one as a result of the condition. This will also aid in identifying the need and appropriate source for professional help.
- Lastly, you also need to remember that along with taking care of your loved ones, you also need to take care of your own mental and physical health. One might feel overburdened with this responsibility to take care of someone suffering from mental health concerns and as a result, might soon experience feelings of anger or hostility towards the loved one. Hence it is important to identify any such feelings at its earliest and seek help for the same.
Center for Mental Health is termed as one of the best mental health centers in India by our clients. The team consists of some of the most renowned psychologists in India who are working towards the common goal of making expert and holistic mental health care available while creating awareness and reducing taboo and stigma around mental illness.
Clinical Psychologist and former colleague at the Centre for Mental Health
Promoting mental health literacy and sensitising community towards mental health concerns