An Open Letter: Supporting Someone With A Mental Illness

I recently uploaded an open letter to anyone suffering as a result of their mental health and it seemed to receive a fairly positive reaction. Today I thought I'd stick to a similar theme but would address a different group of people... those offering support and help to anyone suffering with a mental illness.

It can be difficult knowing someone close to you is struggling, especially if it's something which doesn't have a clear solution and so you don't really know how you can help them. It can be even more challenging if they aren't comfortable or able to open up about their thoughts, feelings or experiences, so you have to base your support on the few things you do know rather than the full picture.

Don't blame yourself for the way they feel and the way they act as a result of that. You can help where you can but it isn't your job to fix things for them and therefore it isn't your fault if you can't do that. It's too easy to blame ourselves for things such as not being able to fix a problem for someone close but sometimes it's not possible. Your support helps but ultimately it takes more than one person's support for them to overcome the difficulties.

Patience is key. Often with the likes of depression and anxiety the view and intentions of the people around those suffering can be slightly warped, which can then result in a slight lack of trust or lack of ability to open up. Again, this isn't your fault and if you want to make it clear you're there for the person, do so but try to understand that them shutting you out isn't necessarily a result of your actions. Sometimes, however difficult it may seem, it's best to take a step back, give them a little bit of space, whilst making it clear you are on their side and wait until they get past that bump, unless you have reason to believe serious/immediate intervention is needed, in which case finding a way through can be difficult but not impossible.

If you believe someone is at a high risk to themselves or others and isn't getting the support and help necessary, I suggest talking to someone you think can provide those things or connect them with someone who can. Even if you worry that the person will hate you for it, ultimately it's doing them a huge favour and one day they'll see that even if they don't immediately.

You don't owe it to anyone to fix their problems, whilst supporting someone is extremely helpful and what the majority of people would hope for from close friends and family, if you are constantly looking out for the person and helping them in anyway you can but in return get nothing back, it's okay to step away slightly. You don't have to dedicate your life to fixing someone else's and if it it does get too much, it's okay to admit it. To spend hours trying to help somebody and feeling under appreciated all the time or finding it difficult to deal with is not something you should be ashamed to admit. You can still support them from a distance but you don't have to constantly be there.

I hope these have helped to reassure some people and possibly given some tips on offering support. If you think I left something important out, please let me know in the comments. Thank you for reading this post.

Love, Steph x

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