Caring For Someone

Mental Health 101


1 July 2020

Doctor supporting elderly woman in clinic, closeup

How do I help a friend, family member, someone I know, or co-worker who I believe may have a mental health problem?

Know the signs and symptoms
  • Knowing the signs and symptoms of someone with a mental health problem is the first step. Mental health problems are health conditions. 
  • Most mental health symptoms have traditionally been divided into groups called either ‘neurotic’ or ‘psychotic’ symptoms. ‘Neurotic’ covers those symptoms which can be regarded as severe forms of ‘normal’ emotional experiences such as depression, anxiety or panic. Conditions formerly referred to as ‘neuroses’ are now more frequently called ‘common mental health problems.’
  • Less common are ‘psychotic’ symptoms, which interfere with a person’s perception of reality, and may include hallucinations such as seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling things that no one else can. Mental health problems affect the way you think, feel and behave. They are problems that can be diagnosed by a doctor, not personal weaknesses.
  • Communication can be difficult for many people with a mental health disorder. They either do not have the motivation to communicate, lack the confidence or are too afraid that others will not understand them. If you see the signs and symptoms of mental illness in a person, reach out to them and make them feel that you are there for them. 
  • Listening is the key here; let them express themselves openly without interrupting or offering your opinion. Provide encouragement and reassurance when they become upset or appear to be struggling with their emotions.
Learn to accept
  • Being labelled as different, difficult, strange or even crazy can make people with mental illness feel isolated and neglected. Accept them for who they are and be supportive in making them feel as normal as possible so they feel wanted and safe in your presence.
Seek professional help
  • Many who suffer are afraid to seek medical help or do not feel the need to. If you are taking care of someone with mental illness, you should consult a medical professional to guide you on the medications, dosages and other things to look out for. If they are suicidal or in danger of harming themselves or others, you should contact emergency services.
Don’t forget your own mental health
  • When caring for someone else, it is equally important to remember to look after yourself. The task of looking after may come voluntarily out of a good heart but it can be overwhelming. To avoid becoming completely absorbed with someone else’s problems, maintain your own social life and if you begin to feel depressed, anxious or burdened, seek external guidance or professional help.