Supporting someone who has a mental health condition

Woman looking upset with a helping hand beckoning her

Watching someone you love experience the symptoms of a long term mental health problem is tough. The path to mental health recovery is winding and bumpy, with stops and starts, and it can involve lapses and setbacks – but it’s worth it…

If you care for a loved one who has complex or long term mental health problems, don’t forget about yourself…

• Make sure you have your own time and space that helps you switch off. Planning is key, ensure you have dedicated time which is just for you.

• Create one thing every day that is positive just for you, this will help counter any depletion in your energy.

• Be mindful of how much you are doing for everyone else. When caring for someone it can be easy to fall into the role of being a “Yes Person”; you might find yourself falling into a people pleasing role, agreeing to help everyone and anyone out. Remember, being a caring person does not mean you have to jeopardise your boundaries; it is ok to say no and set your boundaries.

• Remind yourself you can only do so much to help your loved one, you cannot force their recovery, there is a high level of personal responsibility involved when recovering from mental health problems. Think about walking next to someone as opposed to leading them.

• Have a plan of who you can call should your loved one’s mental health begins to deteriorate, this could be a GP, Community Nurse, Therapist or consultant. Include what you would do in the case of an emergency, this would usually be contacting your local crisis service or supporting your loved one to present at A+E.

• If caring for your loved one takes up the majority of your time, you might be eligible for a Carer’s Allowance, contact your local adult social care team for more information.

Motivation to continue with treatment can wax and wane for someone with a complex mental health difficulty – this is perfectly normal. For example, recovery from BPD or complex trauma means really monitoring your emotions, thoughts and actions, and committing to learning new skills. It’s a lot of work!

It can be hard to know what to do or say to someone who is struggling with their motivation, you don’t want to appear pushy or invalidating and you don’t want to ignore what your loved one is going through.

The following statements have been collected from people in recovery from long term mental health conditions; these are the words that have helped them.

• I might not fully know what your going though but your feelings are important to me.

• I’m here for you if you want to talk.

• I’m here for you if you don’t want to talk, we could do something to help give you a break.

• I know you’re not where you want to be but I believe in you, keep going.

• You don’t have to be perfect.

• I’m proud of you for trying.

• You deserve happiness in life.

• The hard days don’t mean you’re back at square one.

Good luck supporting your loved one, and remember to make time for yourself – you’re doing the best you can.

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