5 Ways To Be Supportive Of Someone’s Mental Health And Well-being

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Two students from a school in Ecuador share a hug after taking part in a kindness activation.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride for me and for most of us. We explored new hobbies (remember the Dalgona Coffee trend?) and were able to introspect. But we also felt exasperated by being totally cut off from the outer world with anxiety and uncertainty stepping in.

For me, even before the pandemic, mental health was a top priority and today I want to talk about how the people close to us play a pivotal part in our mental well-being. As a mental health and lived experience advocate, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ways on how you could better support your friends and family with their mental health and well-being. 

 

    1.    Listen: One thing I’ve learned during the past two years is that lending someone your ear when they’re struggling, is angelic work. One important aspect of being supportive of someone's mental health is to listen actively. Personally speaking, sometimes the listener can be interruptive and that’s not very desirable is it? So, being patient during the conversation plays a huge role.

 

    2.    Avoid Being Dismissive: Another common mistake people make while lending support or listening to someone who is struggling, is being dismissive of their struggles. I’m guilty of this as well. While what they’re going through may seem trivial to us, it could be triggering turmoil in their head. The second lesson here would be to try and be patient even if the subject of their struggles seems unimportant to you.

 

    3.    Establish what they expect: Something I have often experienced while opening up about my mental health struggles was that people assumed that I expected them to be sympathetic and consoling. However, that’s not always the case. Every person has distinct emotional and psychological needs. It’s always helpful to have an open conversation about what a person expects from you when they talk about their struggles to you. And don’t be shocked if the answer to that is simply nothing. Expressing it all out is sometimes the only thing a person may need. 

 

    4.    Empathy more than sympathy: We often tend to confuse empathy and sympathy. Sympathy aligns more with pitying somebody for what they’re going through while empathy is about trying to understand their struggles by putting yourself in their shoes. The ‘empathy over sympathy’ ideology is always of great help to me when it comes to being a better supporter of my loved ones’ mental health and well-being. 

 

    5.    Avoid pitying: The perception that a person expressing themselves and voicing their pain is demanding pity is ridiculous. This notion tends to trap one in a cycle of unhealthy negative thoughts. So another suggestion from my lived experience would be to avoid pitying the person who speaks about their struggles.

 

Understanding somebody else’s struggles is hard - and that’s okay. Even making an effort to try is a great first step. Also, when someone talks to you about their mental health challenges, it doesn’t have to be an all serious conversation where you feel awkward sharing positive news from your life.

Another important thing to remember is that we may not always be in a great state ourselves. We should also prioritize our mental health and politely tell the other person that we’re not in the correct mental space at the moment. An informed conversation is always better than an uninformed and misunderstood one. 

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