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It can be really hard to know how best to support someone who just isn't themselves and may be suffering from some form of mental ill health. Here are helpful and unhelpful comments to consider.

It can be really hard to know how best to support someone who just isn’t themselves and may be suffering from some form of mental ill health.

Often we want to ‘fix’ things and get them back to the person we know. We want to know what’s wrong and be making suggestions for their wellbeing. Often, we just can’t understand why they are feeling how they are, or acting in the way we experience and our overwhelming desire can be to shake them up and get them back on track.

Instead, to best support loved ones, work colleagues or anyone else we care about, we need to be putting them at the heart of every conversation and interaction we have. Compassion and empathy are also a foundation here.

Here are some helpful and unhelpful comments to consider.

Comments to Avoid:

Often we say things with the best of intentions and we mean well. We try to soothe other people or perhaps sometimes ourselves. Try to avoid these kind of comments:

  • Things will get better
  • Pull yourself together
  • I know how you feel
  • You need to get your act together
  • You need to …(and a whole list of suggestions)
  • Everything will be fine
  • There’s nothing to worry about
  • Take responsibility for your life
  • Cheer up
  • Man up!
  • Get a grip!
  • Pull yourself together
  • Smile, it can’t be that bad
  • What’s wrong with you?
  • You’ll get through it
  • Look at what you have to be happy/ thankful about
  • X other person is dealing with so much more
  • You’ve lots to be grateful for

Also avoid telling people what to do, what not to do

Supportive Comments:

These allow the person to know you are there for them without adding pressure and they come from a place of non judgement. Remember compassion. And giving people space and time.

  • I can see you’re sad/ low/ unhappy. Would you like to tell me how you feel?
  • I’m here if you’d like to talk
  • I’m here for you
  • I will help you in any way I can
  • Asking if someone is really OK when they tell you they’re OK and you know they aren’t themselves
  • What does it feel like?
  • How do you feel?
  • What kind of thoughts are you having?
  • I can see you’re not yourself. What can I do to help?
  • Would you like to talk?
  • I don’t know how it feels but if it helps to go out for a walk/ drink/ be together, I’m here
  • Can I help with anything?
  • What can I help you with?
  • I’m here to listen
  • We all need help at some time
  • I wish I knew what to say/ had the right words
  • I know you are going through a tough time and I’d like to help
  • Why don’t you tell me how you’re feeling
  • Can we make a call to get some professional help for you/ an appointment with your GP?

It’s important that we also look after ourselves in supporting someone who is struggling. You can check out my blog on self-care for some suggestions or talk to your GP, a trusted friend or a professional.

It can be really hard to know how best to support someone who just isn't themselves and may be suffering from some form of mental ill health. Here are helpful and unhelpful comments to consider.

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