by Aimee Wilson, Chair
This year, LEAPS are supporting Time To Change’s 2020 Storycamp where the organization will be sending out themes to inspire content. This week’s theme is ‘supporting someone with a mental health condition.’
As a mental health Blogger and Chair of LEAPS, I’m very passionate about the topic and the importance of educating people so that they are better placed to support someone who is struggling. Mental health is definitely one of those things in life where you really don’t know what another person is going through; especially if you have very little experience of things yourself. It’s also similar to physical pain in that everyone has a different level of tolerance and we shouldn’t judge one another for this difference. Instead, we should be supporting one another through difficult times.
A hugely overwhelming emotion that often goes hand in hand with feeling suicidal is loneliness and feeling isolated. It can be far too easy to feel as though you’re the only person going through something and that no one in the world can identify with how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. At the same time, though, we usually don’t like to hear that others share our experiences because it’s saddening to think of someone else going through such hardship. Bit of a Catch-22.
So, as someone with a mental health condition (Borderline Personality Disorder), I thought I’d put together a little list of tips and advice on what I find helpful from someone who is supporting me…
There’s a huge difference between hearing someone and listening to them. Listening is so helpful and important for someone with a mental health condition because it means a lot to know that someone has given up their time to dedicate it to you and that they really are using all their attention on listening to what you have to say.
You could illustrate that you’ve listened to the person you’re supporting by repeating things back to them or asking questions about what they’ve said.
Validation has been hugely helpful for me because I spent so long dismissing my own emotions and telling myself that I was wrong to feel those things. So, when others tell me that how I’m feeling is ‘understandable’ and ‘justified’ then I feel really reassured and become more comfortable talking about it.
You can show validation by telling someone that you can appreciate why they would feel this way, but it’s important to avoid sounding condescending and patronizing.
Recognize your own limits
In order to provide someone with effective support, you really need to ensure that you’re in a good place yourself. To do this you should recognize just how much you can hear about a person’s struggle before it becomes really upsetting for you and you feel unable to support someone else because you need help yourself.
To do this, make sure you’re aware of organizations, charities, and professionals you can signpost someone to if you’re feeling incapable or unable of offering as much support as the person needs.
One conviction that really prompts thoughts of suicide or self-harm is the assurance that things won’t improve or ever get better. The absolute belief that there’s no hope and you’ll feel this way forever. When a person with a mental health condition is beginning to feel hopeless it can really help to be surrounded by people who have faith in their recovery and who really believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for them.
I think that showing a person there is hope is something that really needs to come from a mental health professional or spokesperson so it might be best to get an organization involved where the person you’re supporting has become hopeless.
I hope these tips have been helpful and have aided you in being able to support someone with a mental health condition.