Identifying that your loved one is struggling is seen as the first step to help them. As one knows them inside out, one may be able to figure out how they behave differently. Are they distancing themselves socially? Do they no longer enjoy the things they used to? Have their sleeping or eating habits changed? After noticing something offbeat with them - now what is the next essential step?
Though it may be difficult, showing your loved one support is the key to recovery. Here’s what you can to do help:
Communication is the key
One has to keep in mind that maybe they won’t accept that they require professional help and might push away. They might say they are completely okay and there is nothing to worry about. Make multiple attempts, and try to infer more subtly.
Ask them how are they doing? Have honest conversations with them. One can always start by opening up and telling them how things can be figured out and made easier for them. Ask them open-ended questions like "How are you feeling?" rather than being very direct like "I can see you are feeling very low.” Give the person time to answer without pestering them with too many questions.
Avoid giving advice
It often feels like we need to ‘fix’ them and try to do anything on the earth to make them feel better. It is important to realise that they are not broken, and they do not require any fixing. Secondly, if one indulges in giving them advice, it seems like one is diminishing their struggle and does not believe in their capabilities.
Remember that they are struggling to find a solution, or maybe they are just tired of already trying many things.
Acknowledge their feelings and offer them reassurance
This is one of the most important aspects when talking to loved ones. They need assurance as they feel very overwhelmed. Even if one doesn’t understand why they are feeling this way and what is wrong, don’t question them for what they are feeling. Try to empathise and understand their struggle.
Many times one starts to talk about personal struggles or someone else who has faced similar situations and how they dealt with them. This might feel like belittling their issues and make them feel like you do not understand. Everyone has different struggles when it comes to mental health. People do not experience anxiety in the same way. Yes, the symptoms are the same, but how one handles it is entirely different.
The experience that you had cannot be compared to the experience that they are having and vice versa. This is why it is vital to acknowledge what they are feeling. One has to try to understand them as different individuals rather than connecting their experience to someone else.
Don't try to diagnose or second guess their feelings
Don’t try to take matters personally and start googling symptoms and label them without any medical supervision. Try not to make assumptions about what is wrong or jump in too quickly with the diagnosis or solutions.
Read up and gather knowledge about the same
It is okay not to understand what they are going through. Try to read up on the struggles they are facing, not to label them but to figure out a way to be more supportive. Having the support of loved ones during the healing process makes things easier.
Read articles, blogs, listen to videos and podcasts from sources that are credible. If the loved one wants to talk about how they are feeling, what they are experiencing, try to learn from them.
The bottom line is, we all just want to be heard without judgment. Offering them a judgment-free space will help them fully express how they feel. Try to understand their feelings without any judgement and as a new perspective.
When someone is struggling, be there for them, sit with them, listen, do nothing with them, but support them no matter what. Talk out different ways of de-stressing or practising self-care and figure out what they would find helpful. Help them access self-help tools or offer them help in seeking professional support and provide the relevant information on ways to do this. But remember this, do not take control. Allow them to make these decisions.