Mental Health Awareness Week- Reaching Out to Someone Who Needs Help
12th May, 2017
Watching someone you know battle with mental illness can be extremely tough- especially if the person hasn’t registered or accepted that they need professional help.
It’s easy to feel helpless or afraid to speak to the person because you might offend them, but you know in your heart it’s what needs to be done.
So how can you approach someone about seeking help?
We’ve spoken with writer, producer and musician, Rob Bayley, who has worked closely with the mental health charity, Sane, for many years. Not only is Rob a spokesman for Sane, he has also suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for most of his life.
Here is Rob’s advice on how to support someone in the first steps of seeking help…
Invite them Somewhere with Distractions
When you feel ready to speak to the person, invite them to a place that may be slightly out of their comfort zone or that has distractions, like a park for example. This offers other things to look at, listen to and smell (birds, dogs, trees etc.) so the atmosphere isn’t so intense - this will make it easier for both of you to talk.
Be proactive and say something like: “Hey, why don’t we go and do something today?”
Go Tenderly and With Compassion
You’re at your suggested destination and it’s time to talk.
Take a deep breath and go tenderly. Express that you have some concerns as you’ve noticed that they don’t seem themselves lately. Try to normalise the situation without patronising them, so they don’t feel alienated or isolated. At the same time, you don’t want to trivialise the matter either.
Don’t Try to Self-Diagnose
Whilst you are talking, don’t try and diagnose them or look online with the person in an attempt to self-diagnose; this can add extra stress. Encourage them to discuss their symptoms or feelings with a GP.
Get Active Help
The next step is to physically seek help. There are a number of ways in which to do this, but the best place to start is with a GP. The GP will then help to decide the most effective steps forward, be it via monitoring, help from a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or medication.
Receiving support from a professional should be seen as a positive thing because it can help the person to get back some normality in the way they handle day to day life.
Rob explains: “I have been blessed to have been under the care of enlightened and compassionate doctors, therapists, nurses, and social workers. By their proactive input, and encouraging me to channel my illnesses into creative endeavour, they have helped save me from an existence confined to hospital. I have now learnt to adapt to the psychosis as it manifests itself from day to day.”
As well as medical support, there are some fantastic drop in centres around the country (run by the likes of Mind or a church), where people can go for a cup of coffee and meet others dealing with mental illness. Attendees will usually have varying degrees of mental illness but they’ll still be able to offer comfort and a support network.
Offer Your Support
Let the person know that you’re there for them whenever they need you.
“The love of family and friends, combined with my artistic outlets have saved me from a life extinguished,” says Rob.
You are allowed to go to appointments with the person who is suffering, so volunteer your attendance. It can be extremely beneficial to have you (or any friend/family member) with them, as you might be able to articulate things better than they can, especially if they are feeling distressed.
Once the doctor has decided how they would like to help, you can then help to figure out the best support network or groups to suit their needs.
Help Them to Find a Coping Strategy
Encourage the person to find an artistic outlet or physical discipline as this can really help to focus and distract the mind when they’re having a particularly bad day.
Rob explains: “Through composing and recording my own soundscapes, I am able to facilitate the release of artistic focus, without which I would have no respite from the torment of schizophrenia. Others that I have encountered, have found solace and coping strategies by way of physical discipline. Any approach within positive realms will bring some form of valuable relief”.
To find out more about Rob Bayley and some of the positive ways he’s worked through his mental illness, click here, for his article in the Huffington Post.
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