When a loved one struggles with mental health issues

Third week of quarantine under COVID-19 and I feel the necessity to talk about struggling with mental health within families/close friends. As many people have returned home and are adopting a slower lifestyle, maybe they’re confronted with new family dynamics or just being reminded of how it is to live back at home with everyone there. Its a time to help each other! It’s a time to stick together and to try even harder to live out of love and respect. It goes on for me to ask….

How do you help someone you love overcome their struggles? But not any any type of struggle, I’m talking deeply rooted, mental struggles?

Mental health is often private, it deals with the most vulnerable parts of a persons’ being. One, that not even that person understands.

I do believe childhood and those pivotal years in anyone’s development into adulthood, play a key role in how people behave. I would hope that not a lot of people have traumatic experiences or encounters of abuse but sadly enough, most people do. If its not trauma or abuse it may be a one-off trigger event that can cause people to over time develop a mental health disorder. It is important to trace back to when someone started feeling a specific emotion like despair for a prolonged period or started seeing changes in their behaviour or outlook.

I think secondly, it is important to ask why someone’s struggles continue for so long. Integral to solving problems is communication. If people cannot communicate or share their feelings, their problems, it gets bottled up and expressed in various other ways.

You don’t want to accept someone’s mental health struggle- as their personality. No, you are not your anxiety- you don’t have to be donned the quiet one or the nervous one or the shy one. Not that there is a problem if you are naturally like that but I think people know when they don’t exactly feel i their skin, when they know they could be feeling better.

Back to the topic of how to help your family. First of all, pinpointing behaviour that are typical of the mental health disorder, tackling what triggers those behaviours and encouraging change processes that involve the whole family.

I’m talking about doing activities together that stimulate new ways of talking to each other, exercising together, getting creative- its important to not make the person feel left out or alienated. Anyhow, everyone could benefit from new routines and positive stimulations.

It is important to have a sensitive ear and to create a safe space to talk and share. To create boundaries where needed, but also to not be afraid to get in touch with mental health professionals. From therapists, to psychologists to physiotherapists. Whatever is needed to rehabilitate someone. There shouldn’t be a stigma around asking for help, for paying for help. It is important to be informed scientifically.

By this, I encourage you to support your family members or loved ones. To help each other through struggles and to fight for one another as if it was your own battle. I believe happiness is best shared :)