Are you worried about a friend or a loved one’s mental health?

Many people experiencing worries or troubles will speak to friends and family before they speak to a doctor, so the support you offer can be really valuable.

What are the signs that someone might need help? We all go through stressful events from time to time, that can change our normal behaviour. Short-term changes to behaviour are common. We may feel more stressed, angry or sad. These feelings are not always a sign of mental illness, but changes in behaviour can be a sign that someone is developing a mental illness. You may notice that they start to behave differently. You may see a change over a number of months. They could become more anxious, be irritable, try to start arguments, have mood swings, self-harm, sleep too much or too little, not want to be around other people, be less able to cope with work or studies, have concentration problems, have memory problems, eat more or less, or have suicidal thoughts.

How can I encourage someone to get help?
You can try to help someone by encouraging them to get help from their doctor. A GP can give treatment for some symptoms of mental health conditions. Or they can refer your relative to a psychiatrist. They might not want to visit their GP. They may not think they are unwell, not realise a GP can help, understand they need help but feel too embarrassed or frightened to talk to a doctor. Speaking to a professional and opening up about how you are feeling can be quite a scary situation. There are some things you could tell the person you’re worried about.

You can go with them to a doctor’s appointment to support them if they don’t want to go alone. Many mental health problems can be treated. They might be worried they will have to go to hospital. GP notes are confidential. This means the doctor can’t share information with anyone else unless they agree to it. The GP may have to share information with others if they feel someone is at risk of harming themselves. You, yourself, may worry that you aren’t doing enough to help them but believe me, offering emotional support is really valuable. Listen to them, offer them reassurance, stay calm, be patient, do not make assumptions.

Write to me your thoughts, any tips you may have experienced when helping someone through difficult times.
Ms Bipolar x

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