Q: What changes/behaviours should someone be looking out for if they're worried about a loved one's mental health?
A: It difficult to be specific but I would suggest trusting your knowledge of that person and not dismissing things which seem or "feel" unusual. Very generally, abnormal quietness and being withdrawn can be signs of things like depression.
Some common changes might include their eating habits, an increase in alcohol consumption or changes in their sleep pattern.
I think the key is to trust your instincts and to have a discussion with a mental health professional. It may be that nothing is wrong but at least this would alleviate any worry or concern.
In terms of concerns about someone harming themselves then I would look for changes in routine or "miraculous recoveries" - just be honest and open about your concerns. It perfectly fine to ask someone if they are thinking of harming themselves or thinking of suicide. I suggest doing this as clearly, directly and as kindly as you can.
Q: What advice would you give to people who want to support their loved ones but are worried they will break a confidence?
A: This is a tricky one, however I would recommend being open and honest. If you wish to discuss your concerns with a mental health professional, let them know what you'd like to do. If they are not happy for you to share, then it is possible to get general advice and support.
Our team is able to offer specific, general and confidential advice. Other agencies and charities such as Mind or the NHS will be able to offer advice and support too.
Q: What advice do you have for explaining to less understanding family members that a loved one requires some mental health support?
A: This can be tricky however I would first consider what you'd like the outcome to be. If you'd like them to change how they behave to make things easier, then tell as specifically as you can what you'd like them to change - for example, "If they are quiet or don't respond to you then please give them some space and come and ask me instead".
If you are thinking of this in a broader sense, then it is sad that some people will have unhelpful views about this topic and while difficult - it can be essential to let go of trying to change their view. This may reduce your stress and allow more time to focus on your loved one and your own wellbeing.
Q: How would you start to sensitively broach a difficult subject, without causing too much distress, especially when your loved one might not see the problem you wish to discuss?
A: I would suggest keeping the subject about you and your thoughts and feelings rather than about them. Normally, people say things like "You upset me" or "You made me angry" and while usually fine, someone feeling distressed can understand this as blaming. Instead, I would say things like "I feel concerned about you" or "I feel upset when I see you struggling".
It can also be quite important not to tell other people what they need, but to tell others what you need instead. So rather than saying "I think you need help" try something like "I need things to change".
Sometimes people will simply not be ready to engage with help or even admit that there's a problem - and with the best will in the world we are all unable to change other people. Allow them time and space, but ensure your needs and wellbeing are not lost or forgotten.
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