Updated: Aug 28, 2020
Most of us will have a loved one who experiences significant emotional difficulties. It can be hard to know how to talk to and respond to people when they are suffering. But with some simple tips we can be effective and help.
The most important thing is to let them know you care and are there to listen. The biggest mistake people make is trying to give advice. People don't want advice, they want to tell their story. Spend 90% of your time listening and 10% checking that you have understood.
Sometimes people will ask for your advice. If they do then you can introduce them to the important key principles of adequate sleep, connection, regular exercise, meaningful activity. You might also point them to Wakey! or other online resources that give good advice about mental health problems.
No judgement. Everyone has a tough time sometimes. And you can never know what's going on in a person's head. Neve judge someone for what they are experiencing. If people feel judged they will shut down and may well suffer more. Being present and non-judgemental is a very valuable gift.
When people are depressed or anxious they are likely to withdraw from other people. You can't force them to see you but you can stay in touch by phoning and messaging regularly. Believe us when we say that even if they don't respond always they will appreciate it. You can also help by doing things together that distract from distress -like watching a movie together, going for a long walk together. Gently encourage people but let them guide how much they are up to doing.
If you're very worried (for instance about someone's safety) you might want to suggest that they contact The Samaritans or their GP. You may also wish to give them details of psychological services locally (IAPT) or MIND -- a mental health problems charity.
Remember: The things that worked for you might not necessarily suit someone else. So don't be offended if people don't take your advice.