Helping someone who is experiencing mental ill health.
As a team, we never know what emotional state the people we look for might be in. Very often they are suffering from some kind of mental ill health. The way we treat an individual might be able to help you help a loved one and prevent us ever having to be involved.
Don’t panic or overreact
When your loved one is experiencing a heightened emotional state they might say or do some strange or even alarming things. The important thing to do is to learn more about what your loved one is experiencing whilst remaining calm.
You may think someone being in a “state” or having an “episode” or simply upset will prevent them from picking up on how you are feeling and acting but that may not be the case. They may be even more tuned-in to negative emotions around them than you are, which is why it is important to monitor your behaviour too. Also, don’t take anything offensive they say personally or try to confront them about it. It is best to calm yourself before engaging with them.
Do listen non-judgmentally
Hear what your loved one is saying but don’t dismiss it or laugh it off. Empathise with the emotions they are experiencing. If your loved one is paranoid and acting afraid, understand that they have legitimate feelings of fear. Often people don’t readily tell everyone what they are experiencing and why. Ask questions like “what can I do to help?” or “can you tell me more?” Keeping a calm tone and making it clear you understand the emotions they are experiencing might allow them to feel comfortable enough to open up.
Do speak slowly and simply
People in a “state” or having an “episode” or simply upset might struggle to understand complex language like double-entendres, metaphors, exaggeration, or sarcasm. During this time, it’s best to speak in short clear sentences as you don’t want to further confuse or upset your loved one.
Ask one question at a time and give them enough time to respond. Try to remain at the same eye level as them: if they are sitting, don’t stand and hover over them. Also, if others are in the room with you, don’t speak about them as if they are not there. You want to communicate to your loved one that everyone is working with them to help them get better.
Don’t hesitate to contact the mental health professionals
Your family member may not be willing to get help. This can be very frustrating and confusing for most families. If you are concerned that you, or someone you care about it is important to seek help from a qualified mental health professional. If they are in immediate danger to themselves or others then do call 999. Otherwise call 101 or contact their GP to get them the help they need.
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