During periods of social isolation, it might feel more difficult than ever for people to look after their mental health. For some the mix of Covid-19 related anxiety, social isolation and pre-existing mental health problems could be particularly difficult to cope with. In addition, the current situation may have taken away some peoples previous coping mechanisms, and their access to face-to-face support.
Mental health services are still available for people who need some extra help to get through.
In addition to offering practical and emotional support we can help others by making them aware of the range of services and support still available to
- support their mental health
- address the broader range of problems that arise out of the crisis such as housing, money, domestic violence and employment issues.
5 Steps to Helping – Showing you care, offering support and a listening ear can all go a long way.
Watch for the warning signs that someone might be struggling. This is more challenging during the Covid-19 crisis, and we may need to be more pro-active about checking in with others by phone and online.
Trust your instincts and ask the person directly how they are doing. If necessary, ask twice. “Are you really OK?”. If you feel they may be struggling let them know that you are worried about them and that you care.
Give them time and space to talk and be helpfully nosey. Have a look at our listening tips on the following pages. During the Covid-19 crisis you may need to do more of this by telephone and online.
Explore what help they might need. Build a circle of support through family and friends. Have a look together at the resources at the end of this booklet, or on our website. Set goals about what they can do next.
Keep Checking in and letting the person know you are there for them. Knowing someone cares can make all the difference.
Look out for the signs that someone might be struggling to cope.
The current situation and uncertainty will lead to heightened levels of anxiety for many people, and potentially in the longer term to a range of mental health problems if people don’t get the early support they need.
Look out for the signs that someone might be struggling to cope
How someone might behave
- Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
- Withdrawing from, or avoiding friends and family
- Stopping telephone or social media contact
- Losing interest in things, including their appearance
- Risky behaviour or increased use of alcohol and drugs
- Carelessness or lack of interest in work
- Starting or increasing Self-harming behaviour
- Increasing coping behaviour such as hand-washing
- Struggling to make decisions and concentrate.
How they may be thinking or feeling
- Sadness or anxiety that does not go away
- Losing enjoyment and interest in people and activities
- Lack of energy, lethargy and tiredness
- Extreme mood swings, ongoing irritability or anger
- Developing unrealistic or excessive fears and worries
- Increased anxiety about their health
- Chest pains, shortness of breadth
Be helpfully nosey
This is a challenging time. Show interest in the people around you. Show you care through asking questions about how they are thinking and feeling. And don’t be afraid to ask twice if you are worried. Check in, and continue to check in.
Be Vigilant – Its more important than ever to find ways to keep contact, to check-in, and to offer support to those around us.
Listening Tips – The smallest displays of kindness, like picking up the phone and offering a listening ear, could make the difference.
Avoid offering solutions – Listening to someone’s problems is not always easy – and most of us want to make things better, but this not usually helpful. Avoid fixes such as ‘Have you thought of doing this?’ or ‘You should try that’.
Ask open questions – These are questions that invite someone to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no’, such as ‘How have you been feeling?’ or ‘What happened next?’
Offer prompts – Encourage someone to talk more through phrases such as ‘Tell me more’ or ‘Can you say more about that?’, or through repeating back important words they say.
Give them time – It helps if you let them take the time they need to describe where they are at. Make sure you have time to listen.
Take their feelings seriously – Take whatever they say seriously and without judgment. Don’t offer platitudes or minimalize their feelings.
Avoid judgements – You might feel shocked or upset by what someone says, but it’s important not to blame the person for how they are feeling. It may have been a big step to talk to you, and to place their trust in you.
You don’t have all the answers – It’s okay to not know what to say! You’re a human being too and what you’re hearing might be upsetting or confusing. If you don’t know what to say – be honest and tell that person.
Give re-assurance – Let the person know there is help available and that you care about them.
Trust to your gut instincts. If you are at all concerned that someone is having thoughts of suicide ask them directly.
If you’re worried that someone may be feeling suicidal it can be really hard to know what to say to them, or how to help. But thinking about suicide does not make it inevitable that someone is going to take their own life, and all of us have the ability to support someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, and to save lives.
Being there to listen and to provide emotional support can be a lifesaver.
In addition to the general signs of mental health problems listed previously someone having thoughts of suicide might;
- Talk, or post social media messages, about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live, or that they are a burden to others.
- Show unexpected mood changes such as suddenly being calm after a long period of depression, giving away possessions or making a will, increased risky behaviour or self-harming, or researching suicide online.
- Have had by a major loss or change in their life, an accumulation or build-up of problems before Covid-19, or be facing financial, relationship or housing hardship.
Trust to your gut instincts. If you are at all concerned that someone is having thoughts of suicide – ASK them directly – LISTEN compassionately – GET HELP if needed.
Talking about suicide with someone can feel nerve-wracking but the best thing to do is ask directly. “Are you thinking about suicide?” This will not put ideas in their head and will show them they don’t have to struggle alone with these overwhelming thoughts.
The key ingredients for maintaining your wellbeing during the Covid-19 crisisread more
Things we can do to look after children’s mental health during this crisis.read more
Simple ways to maintain happiness and productivity while working from home.read more