Mental Health Awareness Part 2: Looking out for loved ones

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Queensland Mental Health Week runs from 6-14th October and provides a timely reminder for Queenslanders to recognise the importance of mental health. We recently published an article entitled Mental Health Awareness Part 1: Taking care of you, which focused on the steps you can take to improve your own mental health. When caring for children with complex needs this is often at the bottom of a very long list but it’s so important to take time for yourself and to recognise your own mental health as something that needs care and attention.

In this article, from our health team, we will explore how loved ones can look out for each other because when you have the support of others we are all stronger. So what can we do when we see that a loved one is stressed and you are concerned?

Start a conversation

Dedicate a conversation to expressing the concerns that you have for your loved one. Take time out from everyday life and choose a time and place that allows for you to focus on what you’d like to say and for your loved one to be open to listening. Try not to make your loved one feel under pressure or that the conversation is out of their control. You can open the conversation with something like “I’d like to talk something over with you that has been worrying me. Is this a good time?”

Don’t judge

Talk about the changes that you have seen in your loved one’s behaviour and be careful not to label their behaviour so that they feel judged in any way. For example, this could be “I’ve noticed that you’re having trouble sleeping and concentrating lately, can we talk about that?”

Listen

Then listen to what they have to say. Give your loved one the space to talk and let them know that they have been heard. Be patient too because it may take a while for your loved one to process what you are saying and to respond.

Keep calm

Being calm and supportive will help your loved one to open up about what they are going through. Do your best to avoid expressing any frustration that will interfere with their ability to hear what you are saying. Instead, speak calmly and quietly and don’t get into an argument or be confrontational.   

Be practical

Focus on the practical help that you can both access. Offer to make an appointment for them to seek some professional support and have you or another relative or friend accompany them. Also let them know that you are there for them and encourage them to talk again.

Keep trying

Don’t be disheartened if your first attempt to talk isn’t successful. An initial conversation may plant the seed of seeking help and let your loved one know that they can seek support from you and from professionals. By showing that you care and that you are not going to judge them, they will be more likely to come to you when they’re ready to seek help.

If you’d like further support or information:

Beyondblue:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health

Headspace:

https://www.headspace.org.au/young-people/what-is-mental-health/

World Health Organisation:

http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/