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How To Be an Effective Mental Health Ally for Your Loved Ones

How To Be an Effective Mental Health Ally for Your Loved Ones

Approximately 60-70 million people in India grapple with common mental health disorders, yet a significant portion faces barriers to timely treatment due to the pervasive stigmatisation surrounding mental health issues and financial constraints. 

While awareness has improved and more professionals are available to assist, most people still do not get the support they need from their peers and loved ones. The environment plays a crucial role in mental health, especially for those who are trying to overcome their challenges.  

Allyship becomes a crucial aspect of supporting those struggling with mental health challenges. Being a good ally means being supportive, understanding, and committed to your loved ones who are dealing with mental health challenges.

But how do we do it? Let us first discuss the meaning of allyship and ways to provide effective support to our loved ones with mental health challenges. 

Start with Education 

What do you really know about mental health? How much effort do you put into understanding what someone is going through?  

It is easy to give generic advice, gaslight people, or even invalidate their experiences when we do not understand the basics of mental health. Therefore, education is very important for allyship. Understanding key terms, theories, and facts about mental health challenges will help you provide better support for your loved ones. 

Woman learning about mental health

Start by educating yourself on the basics of mental health, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorders. Then take a closer look at your loved one's diagnosis and learn about their symptoms, triggers, and treatments.  

Listen and Show Empathy 

One of the basic needs we have as humans is to be heard and understood. This need is more pronounced in individuals who are going through mental health issues, as they feel isolated and misunderstood.  

As an ally, it is essential to provide a safe space for your loved one to express their feelings without judgement or unwarranted input. Sometimes, people just want to vent and have someone listen to them. So, don’t interrupt them with your problems or solutions. Engage in active listening techniques like paraphrasing or asking open-ended questions to show them you are there and available to help. 

Friends listening to each other's problems and showing empathy

Empathy is also a key to effective allyship. It is a step further from listening and requires putting yourself in your loved one’s shoes. Showing empathy means validating their emotions and seeing the situation from their perspective. It can be as simple as saying, “I understand how hard this must be for you” or “I can appreciate why that would make you feel frustrated, angry, or sad. 

Encourage Professional Help 

Professional help can speed up the process of recovery and act as a powerful resource in the healing journey. So, encourage them to seek professional help gently, as it can be game-changing. Some people hesitate to seek help but knowing that they have your support can make it easier. You can go one step further and suggest a therapist or counsellor or guide them to the right resources. Even if they get help, some of them might find it hard to take that first step.

Stay Connected and Follow Up 

Mental health is an ongoing journey, and so one conversation does not cut it. Regularly checking on your loved ones can make a world of difference for them. So, when a loved one is going through a tough time, try to be present for them from time to time; it can be the most useful tool in their healing journey.  

Friends staying connected and following-up on their mental health challenges

In the spirit of continued support, ekincare can assist in maintaining a strong connection with mental health professionals who can offer ongoing care and follow-up. This can be invaluable in ensuring your loved ones receive the consistent support they need throughout their mental health journey. 

There might be times when you feel helpless when it comes to helping them. It might seem like nothing you can do will make it any better. Remember that you are there to support them, and it is not your responsibility to “fix” their issues. Just be there to remind them that they are not alone. 

Take Care of Yourself 

Finally, it's essential to take care of your mental health while supporting your loved ones. It's okay to take a break, set boundaries, and look after your mental health. If you feel overwhelmed or need support, don't hesitate to seek help from a therapist or support group. Taking care of your mental well-being can help you show up as a better ally for your loved ones who are struggling with their mental health.

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Nivetha Kannan

Content Writer, Silver Oak Health

Nivetha Kannan writes blogs on mental health and well-being topics for Silver Oak Health. She is a professional content writer and is passionate about the field of psychology & personal development. She writes impactful content that brings positive changes in people. Her mantra for life is to 'be curious and not judgemental'.