When it comes to looking after Scotland’s mental health, we have a huge role to play as family and friends.
As a family member or friend you are one of the people who sees your loved ones – or speaks to them – most regularly. As such, you are likely to notice when the people you care about are acting differently.
You can pick up when they are not looking after themselves as well as they normally do. You will see things that most other people, including work colleagues, would not see. If you notice some changes in someone you care about, it could be that there is something really challenging happening in their life – like work stress, the pressure of job-hunting, or a relationship break-up.
But sometimes this will be because the person is experiencing a mental health issue.
It is important that everyone in Scotland knows a little bit about mental health issues, and is open to the possibility that the people that are close to will sometimes struggle to maintain their mental health and well-being. Research shows that every year 1 in 4 of us in Scotland will experience a mental health problem, so it is vital to be prepared, open, and ready to talk about mental health. And in learning to look after each other, you can also learn some good ways of looking after your own mental health in case you find yourself struggling.
Once you’ve identified that you think a loved one is struggling, it is time to think about how to talk to them about what’s going on. As well as thinking what kind of conversation you would like to have with the person you are worried about, it’s also important to think objectively about what kind of conversation you don’t want to have.
It is also worth self-checking to make sure you aren’t going to approach the situation in a way that could seem unhelpful or a bit aggressive. Often family members and friends will focus on the things they are concerned about (a messy house or lack of effort with finding a job) rather than the person inside and this might feel a bit like ‘an attack’.
You need to give them positive affirmation through speaking to them – to start by letting them know you are there to listen and that you care.