Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Practical Ways to Help Someone Suffering From a Mental Health Illness

This might sound harsh, but flowers, jewellery, chocolate and the 'normal' cheer me ups will fall on numb feelings to someone suffering from mental health.

It's very hard to imagine or describe how someone who is sick feels, but if you could imagine feeling nothing, not that deep burning desire for anything, not the goodness of a full belly laugh, not even a stinging scratch, or an excitement buzz, just numbness is pretty much bang on.

So then how do you help someone with a mental health illness?

It's incredibly, ridiculously hard for those supporting someone whom is ill, and seeing their loved one lose all aspiration and motivation for life.

It's hard to know what to say, without saying the wrong thing, but also without saying nothing at all.

So here's some practical tips based on my experience.

Think practical.

Think of all of the normal mundane jobs that you hate doing, even when you have energy, and then imagine having to do these when you have no energy at all.

Things like scooping up the dirty washing, hanging it out, picking it in, folding and putting it away. Doing the dishes, going down to the grocery shop, unpacking groceries, mopping the floor, emptying the bin, things that aren't hard' but require energy.

Things that don't cost money, and aren't elaborate, but certainly things that someone in the deep pit of suffering just can't do.

And as things pile up, cupboards empty, cars run out of petrol, floors become slippery and messy, the embarrassment, anxiety and guilt also piles up, and again, it's a nasty cycle.

The person ends up locking themselves away, not wanting visitors because of the shame in how bad the state of affairs have become.

So offering the practical help of your time will go a long way.

Popping around with a vacuum cleaner, duster and dishcloth to help clean up, taking loads of washing to a dry cleaner or Laundromat and giving them back smelling fresh and folded, filling up cupboards and fridges with the necessities like toilet paper, bread, cereal, milk, fruit, meat and veg, will go a long way.

Just be mindful of foods that are quick and easy to cook, like pre made lasagnas, two minute noodles, meals that you whack in the microwave etc, that don't require time, effort and cleaning up, will definitely help someone who doesn't even have an appetite and can't get out of bed!

The easier, the better, and the more likely that the person will get up, zap something in the microwave, and start to bring back some normality by eating three meals a day and a regular routine into their life.

Think about activities that don't require effort, but gets the person either out of the house or out of their dark bedroom and out from under the quilt.

The person probably won't feel like talking, so dinner dates that rely heavily upon discussion probably won't really work, or will make the person extremely anxious.

Try popping around with some popcorn, snacks and a DVD and curling up on the couch together, so that they know that they are not alone, but they aren't forced to think, talk and constantly express how they feel over and over again. If they are ready, they will start the conversation.

Going for walks is a great way to get the person out of the house, exercising and some fresh air. Maybe you could rock up with two iPhones with earphones, so that you can both walk
but have music in, so that there isn't forced conversation, but there's still something going on to distract the persons mind.

Try not to play board games, or anything that requires too much thinking and concentration. Chances are that the person hasn't been sleeping, is exhausted and actually can't think logically nor clearly.

Maybe a light reading book, or glossy magazine might help. Something that isn't too dense. Just something to help distract their ruminating negative thoughts.

Give plenty of hugs.

Offer to brush their hair.

Offer to get their towel and clothes out so that they can jump in the shower.

Buy them toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, hair brush, shaver etc, as they have probably let their hygiene go as they just don't care what anyone thinks of them.

Book them in for a massage, some pampering, an eye brow or eye lash tint, wax or something that makes them become aware of their appearance and tries to make them become appreciative of their appearance once again.

A new hair colour might make them feel nice.

Try not to organise activities with big groups of people. We know when we're healthy that these can be exhausting and draining, so imagine how it'd feel trying to keep up with conversations and probing when you're exhausted, tired and sweating in fear of a panic attack.

Just keep get togethers one on one or with two or three max.

Sending messages, cards or emails to say that you are thinking of the person, and are there for a chat will mean alot. You may not get a reply, and try not to take this personally, the person is probably just feeling overwhelmed and are trying to figure out what is happening to them.

Try and avoid asking too many questions about how they are feeling; keep the conversations general. Imagine if everyone family member and friend kept asking are you okay, how are you, how do you feel, do you need help etc over and over again. It constantly makes the person think about how they are feeling, which is like rubbish, and then they dwell on it.

In saying this, popping around randomly and offering to take them out, or to the doctors or appointments will help.

Do I sound contradicting here? (Different things will work for different people).

If they don't reply, don't feel bad about popping around to check up on them.

Sometimes you may literally have to drag the person outside kicking and screaming, but they will feel better once they have, I promise.

Hopefully some of these things help those supporting sufferers know what may or may not help someone.

I think the key thing is practical. Think practical. Think what can I do, instead of what can I buy.

Now more then ever, the person will value your time, patience and caring manner to help them understand and through their illness.

Tasks that we don't usually give two thoughts to become impossible, so your help to complete them, like the cooking, shopping, and showering, will massively help the person.

I'm going to stress this again, cuddles. Cuddles more than words.


Practical support.

Dragging someone out of the house.

Reminding the person you are there, you care and you won't think differently of them.

Hope this helps!

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

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