How to support someone with mental health challenges

As we’ve already established, mental health is an area which is garnering more and more attention in our society. People who struggle with mental health conditions are finding it easier to speak out about it, while mental health advocates are normalizing the prevalence of such as well. However, we have not yet reached a point where we have ended the stigma towards mental health as a prevailing societal problem.

Until recently, mental health conditions were not taken as seriously as physical ailments. Depression, stress and anxiety have not been seen as serious issues which can affect someone’s functioning and well-being. As a result, often people do not know how to support those with mental health problems.

Things often said to people suffering from mental illness:

  • Just snap out of it
  • We’re all crazy!
  • Everyone feels like that
  • Just pray and you will be okay
  • It’s just in your head

Such comments are invalidating, hurtful and ignorant. It is not as easy as praying or thinking yourself out of a mental illness. It is not a choice and we should not be belittling people’s experiences.

Instead what we should be doing is:

  • Listening and being supportive
  • Not judging
  • Asking how we can help them
  • Being patient
  • Reaching out whenever you can
  • Empathizing
  • Referring them to resources which can help

Our role as members of society should be to validate people’s experiences, support those who need us and ensure that they receive the help that they need. A listening ear and a few comforting words can go a long way for someone who feels alone in their internal, emotional struggles.

For more information on mental health conditions and helpful resources, visit www.sadag.org.za

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