Supporting Loved Ones with Mental Health Challenges: Being an Ally

No one should ever face mental health challenges alone. Our friends, family, and loved ones are essential to managing our wellbeing–providing support, understanding, and care that is simply irreplaceable. Being an ally to a friend or family member with mental health challenges can feel daunting as we search for ways to help them. This article will explore how we can provide our love and support to those with mental health challenges, and ultimately become an ally.

1. A Caring Approach: Supporting Your Loved One with Mental Health Challenges

When a loved one is struggling with mental health, it can be an incredibly tumultuous and difficult period – for both them and you. While it’s true that we can’t “fix” our loved ones, we can help to provide a supportive environment and help make the journey less daunting. Here are a few tips for taking a gentle, caring approach when interacting with your loved one.

  • Keep communication channels open: Communicate with your loved one – above all else, keep the lines of communication open and honest. It’s okay to let your loved one know you are there for them, but avoid pressuring them to talk or “cure” themselves.
  • Practice self-care: Taking care of your own mental health is essential to support your loved one. You may become overwhelmed or exhausted in the process of caring, so factor in moments of rest for yourself. Self-care can include yoga, walking in nature, exercise, or any other relaxation activities that offer respite from the present emotions.
  • Be mindful of language: Choose language that is respectful and non-judgemental. Your tone of language and choice of words can make a difference in how your loved one feels. Avoid phrases such as “get over it”, “just snap out of it”, “it’s all in your head”, or “you probably just need to sleep it off”, as such statements can diminish the gravity of the situation and invalidate the individual’s experience.
  • Encourage healthy habits: Even if your loved one is not yet ready to take on more-involved therapies or treatments, you can help encourage healthy lifestyle habits. Promote physical activity, healthy eating, scheduling regular bed times, and activities that bring them joy. Whilst none of these activities will “cure” the condition, they can help lift the mood and provide a temporary respite from the challenges.
  • Above all else, make sure you’re mindful and remember that everyone experiences mental health in a unique manner. The journey of recovery can take time, but by exploring gentle and caring approaches, you’ll be giving your loved one the space to explore and grow.

    2. Tapping Into Resources to Strengthen Your Ally Role

    Being a successful ally means doing your best to make sure you are well-informed and equipped with the right resources. It is very important to learn about allyship and the various facets of oppression, such as racism and sexism, if you want to make a real impact.

    Taking the time to invest in yourself and deepening your understanding can help you be a more effective ally. Here are some great resources that can help you get there:

    • Inspiring Videos: There are lots of videos out there produced by various organizations that discuss inequality and injustice. Watching inspiring speeches, documentaries, and TED talks can help you become more aware and motivated to make real change.
    • Online Classes: There are a variety of free and discounted courses and seminars available online that you can use to learn more about social justice. Learning from professionals can open your eyes to new perspectives and knowledge to help strengthen your ally role.
    • Follow Organizations on Social Media: Following organizations aimed at bringing awareness to social injustice is a great way to stay informed on the current state of the world and take part in conversations. Make sure to fact check and keep your comments respectful to other people.
    • Books and Articles: Reading books published by experts on the topics can help you gain a better understanding of what’s going on and the complexities of certain issues. Also, there are a plethora of articles available on various websites and publications that can give you a deeper insight.

    These resources can help you understand the gravity of certain situations and equip you with the needed knowledge and tools to become a more effective ally. Take the time to dive into these resources so you can best address any issues or concerns you encounter when talking about social justice.

    3. Recognizing the Unique Experience: Offering Compassionate Support

    When offering compassionate support, it’s important to recognize the unique experiences of those you are helping. Everyone is dealing with different issues, and no two experiences are the same. Being mindful of this can help you understand and provide the best kind of support:

    • Make sure you’re attending to the individual needs of the person you’re helping, not just giving general advice.
    • Take the time to listen to their story and show empathy.
    • Be willing to adjust your approach to ensure that the person feels understood and heard.

    Not only is this the best kind of care you can give – it’s also an effective way to build trust and strengthen relationships. It’s important that those who need help feel like they can come to you and be understood, and that it’s safe to talk to you without fear of judgment.

    Be aware of your own feelings as well. It’s natural for us to be affected by the stories we hear and the struggles we witness. Showing kindness and compassion to someone in need is, of course, essential – but taking care of yourself is important too. If it becomes too difficult, it’s okay to take a step back and take a break.

    4. Ways to Nurture Mental Well-Being and Foster Resiliency

    Mental well-being and resiliency go hand in hand. It is important to nurture our mental well-being not just in times of difficulty, but every day. Here are four of the many ways we can do that.

    Focus on the present

    • Acknowledge and appreciate small moments throughout the day
    • Practice mindfulness exercises or meditation
    • Take a break from technology

    Engage in rewarding activities

    • Do something that brings you joy – this can be art, music or sports
    • Try something new and challenging
    • Explore the outdoors: go for a walk, a hike or bike ride

    Stay connected to others

    • Devote time to developing relationships with friends and family
    • Establish connections with colleagues or new people
    • Keep up with social activities

    Take care of yourself

    • Get enough rest
    • Eat healthy, nutritious meals
    • Prioritize physical activity – take regular breaks during the workday

    These are just a few of the many ways to nurture mental wellness and foster resiliency. Make time to focus on yourself, rest and indulge in activities that bring you joy.

    5. Sharing the Message of Hope: Being an Active Ally

    In this day and age, it’s important to actively support and join the fight for justice and unconditional acceptance. By being an active ally you can help to spread the message of hope to those who need it most. Here’s how:

    • Realize the Power of Words: Words have power — and not just in the words you say, but in the way you use them. Become an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. Choose your words carefully — be respectful, don’t stereotype, and don’t perpetuate oppressive language.
    • Actively Listen: Active listening encourages respect and understanding. Don’t just listen to understand what is being said, but listen to understand the feelings behind them. Show sensitivity in understanding different perspectives.
    • Educate Yourself: The world isn’t going to change overnight, but together, we can create a more inclusive society. Become a source for knowledge and education. Learn about the different challenges faced by marginalized communities and share it with others.

    By being an active ally, you will be part of a positive change in opinion. You can help others to find solidarity and build a stronger, more inclusive society. Use your privilege to open up dialogue and support those who don’t have a voice. Speak up, stand together and be bold — it’s time to spread the message of hope!

    Being an ally for a loved one with mental health challenges is an incredibly rewarding experience that can make a world of difference in someone’s life. Open and honest communication, as well as understanding and compassion, are essential in helping someone through difficult times. So when your loved one needs a helping hand, be there, encourage them, and support them through the journey—they’ll be thankful that you did.

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