If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, it can be hard knowing what you should do. When you know that there is a definite problem, it's vital that you don't wait too long. Delaying and hoping they will ask you for support may lose important time in getting them the help they need.
Speaking to the person is frequently the initial step you take when you are aware that they are experiencing personal difficulties. The Mental Health Foundation provide 8 essential pieces of advice to take on-board when it comes to supporting and speaking to someone with mental health issues.
1. Don't attempt to diagnose or second-guess the way they feel.
In all likelihood, you are probably not someone with medical expertise and, whilst you might be happy to chat and offer consolation, you're not a trained counsellor. See that you avoid jumping to conclusions concerning what is wrong or try to issue your own solutions or diagnosis.
2. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want to.
Allow them to lead the discussion at their own pace. Avoid putting pressure on them to inform you of anything that they're not ready to speak about. Speaking about personal issues can take a great deal of courage and trust. It could be that you're the first person they've been able to openly discuss it with.
3. Set time aside for no distractions.
It's imperative that you provide a non-judgemental and open area without distraction.
4. Maintain open-ended questions.
Rather than saying "I can see that you're upset", say "How are you feeling?". Sustain neutral language. You need to give the person a good amount of time to answer and avoid grilling them with far too many questions.
5. Listen attentively to what they say.
Whatever they say, repeat it back to yourself to ensure that you've understood it. You do not have to affirm what they are saying, though by demonstrating that you can empathise with the way they feel, you're making them aware that you have respect for their feelings.
6. Speak about well-being.
Exercise, having a healthy diet and taking a break can help protect mental health and sustain wellbeing. Talk about ways of de-stressing and ask if they find anything helpful.
7. Be aware of your limitations.
If you think that the person is in immediate danger or that they have injuries that require medical attention, it's important that you take action to ensure that they are safe. Other details on how to deal with this sort of crisis can be discovered below.
8. Suggest helping them find professional support and give them information on how they can do this.
You could help them to speak to a family member or friend, or offer to attend the GP with them.