Supporting someone who has a mental illness

Unfortunately in today's fast moving, stressful, busy and expensive society no one is immune to suffering from mental illness. Whilst someone may take a knock to their confidence and have a dip in their mood they will move on quickly and regain their usual happy go lucky altitude. However others are not so lucky and a trigger event or situation could send a persons mood in to freefall, resulting in symptoms of anxiety, stress and possibly depression.

Some people may not know whether a friend or family member has been clinically diagnosed with a mental health condition and this is problematic as instead of being supportive and helping, their attitude may be very much

'snap out of it '. Whilst others will have recognised that something is not quite right with someone close to them and they will not be afraid to try and talk to them to assist in finding a road to recovery.

Are mental health problems increasing?

According to Mind – the mental health charity, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year

In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week

The overall number of people with mental health problems has not changed significantly in recent years, but worries about things like money, jobs and benefits can make it harder for people to cope.

It appears that how people cope with mental health problems is getting worse as the number of people who self-harm or have suicidal thoughts is increasing

How common are specific problems?

Every seven years a survey is done in England to measure the number of people who have different types of mental health problems [2]. It was last published in 2016 and reported these figures:

Generalised anxiety disorder 5.9 in 100 people

Depression 3.3 in 100 people

Phobias 2.4 in 100 people

OCD 1.3 in 100 people

Panic disorder 0.6 in 100 people

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 4.4 in 100 people

Mixed anxiety and depression 7.8 in 100 people

Are people with mental ill health more vulnerable?

Yes is the simple answer, having a mental illness can lead to may lead to other issues such as, crime, gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and other illnesses.

There may be the additional increased risk of

* self harm / suicide

* being a victim of crime (particularly hate crimes / incidents)

* exploitation

Recognising when someone may have mental illness

If there are areas of concern in 3 out of the 5 areas below then consider carefully how you will respond


* Do they look ill, injured, unsettled, anxious/ what is there demeanour?

* Is there a physical problem, bleeding, panic attack?


* Are they excitable, irrational, manic, slow, furtive?

* What are they doing and is it in keeping with the situation?

Communication and Circumstances

* Is their speech slurred, slow, fast? Are their eyes glazed, staring, dilated/ what is their body language and are they displaying any subtle signs of stress or fear?

* Circumstances : Are the circumstances unusual or out of the ordinary.


* Is there a risk of danger / harm to themselves or another?


* Is there something about the environment or their home that is unusual or gives rise for concern?

What not to say to someone who has mental illness

Whether it be a work colleague, family member or a friend there are certain things that the person will not want to hear.

* Snap out of it

* It’s all in your head

* Stop whinging

* You don’t seem unwell

* Have you ever thought of trying this, that, the other

* You don’t need medication

* You need to be honest

* Get a good night sleep and it will pass

* That’s quite common isn’t it?

* Time is a healer, it will get better

Instead support and listen, be there for the person, take them to see their GP/therapist and wait for them. Do not patronise or give them bad advice. Once the person does obtain professional support and is on the road to recovery the following may assist them to control their stress and anxiety.

* Journaling – Write down anxious thoughts, taking these from the mind and onto paper can reduce anxious feelings

* Support – Create a list of people you can call, text or meet up with when you are feeling anxious

* Self-care – Taking care of yourself is important and can help manage anxiety

* Sleep – Try to get a good night’s sleep, empty your mind and re-energise. Using an app like Headspace can really help.

* Exercise – Physical anxiety can reduce stress and anxiety. When you are feeling anxious go for a swim, run, brisk walk or visit the gym. Exercise releases chemicals in the body that can help to lift your mood and make you feel good.

* Breathing – Practice breathing and mindfulness exercises, start yoga and meditation, learn to slow down your mind.

* Listen – Listen to a podcast, audio book, music playlist as this can take your mind of anxious thoughts and improve your mood.

Please visit:


Re-think mental illness

NHS - generalised anxiety disorder


Mashable UK - 7 apps that will help you sleep better

Toms Guide- Best workout apps


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