In our society, everyone faces their own challenges, and providing emotional support to someone dealing with mental health issues is crucial to their recovery journey. Witnessing a loved one struggle with symptoms of mental illness can be challenging, and knowing how best to assist and support them can be equally difficult. Each person’s situation is unique, requiring empathy, patience, and understanding. Just as others have supported us through tough times, we may find ourselves concerned about the mental well-being of friends, family members, or colleagues. Whether through friendship, family ties, or professional relationships, there are numerous ways to offer meaningful support to those we care about. (Also read: Mental health matters: Signs to look out for in your loved ones to identify chronic depression symptoms and ways to help )

Providing emotional support to someone facing mental health challenges can be complex, but it is essential for their recovery.(Pixabay)

Essential ways to support loved ones dealing with mental health issues

Arouba Kabir, mental health counsellor and founder, Enso Wellness shared with HT Lifestyle essential tips to provide meaningful emotional support to someone grappling with mental health challenges.

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1. Listen Actively: Active listening is the most important. Allow the person to speak and be attentive, maintain eye contact, and avoid interrupting. Let them share their feelings and thoughts, even if you feel they should feel that way, without fear of judgment. Use affirming nods and phrases like, “I understand,” “That sounds really tough,” or “I hear you” to show you are engaged and empathetic.

2. Validate Their Feelings: As you listen to them, acknowledge their emotions without minimizing or dismissing them. Statements like, “Its okay to feel this way,” or “Your feelings are valid,” really helps to feel understood and supported. Validation helps build trust and opens the door for deeper conversations. They can open up more and tell you the root causes.

3. Do Not Offer Unsolicited Advice: While it might be tempting to offer solutions as we want them to get out of their pain, issues, unsolicited advice can sometimes feel dismissive or be taken forgranted. Instead, ask if they want advice or simply need someone to listen. If they seek advice, offer it gently and based on what they’ve shared.

4. Encourage Professional Help: Suggesting professional help can be a sensitive topic. Bring it up with care, emphasizing that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You might say, “Talking to a therapist could provide you with some additional support and strategies,” and help them book a consultation, as that might be difficult for them to do.

5. Patience is the Key: Mental health struggles can be complex and enduring. Be patient with their progress and setbacks. It can be really slow and frustrating. Avoid pressuring them to “snap out of it” or “look on the bright side.” Recovery is a journey, not a quick fix. Let it go, time heals the pain is not the solution.

6. Offer Practical/Daily Support: Practical help can alleviate some of the stress they might be feeling. This could include assisting with daily tasks, helping them find a mental health professional, accompanying them to appointments, walking their dog, cooking a meal, etc. Small acts of kindness can make a significant difference.

7. Check-In on them: Regular check-ins can show that you care and are there for them consistently. A simple message or call can remind them they are not alone. Ask open-ended questions like, “How have you been feeling lately?” to encourage them to share more.

8. Respect Their Boundaries: While it’s important to be supportive, it’s equally important to respect their need for space or privacy. Be attentive to their cues and avoid being overbearing. Let them know you’re available whenever they’re ready to talk.

9. Upgrade Yourself: Educating yourself about the issue and understanding more about the specific mental health condition will help you provide better support. Educate yourself through reliable sources to gain insights into what they might be experiencing and how best to support them.