As a family member, partner or friend, you can be a very valuable source of support for people experiencing mental health problems.
But to provide this effectively, you need to make sure that you are looking after yourself and not neglecting your own mental and physical needs.
Accept that mental health is just as important as physical health and that your partner, family member or friend cannot just ‘snap out’ of their mental health problems. Talk to your partner, family member or friend about what they’re going through. Take an interest in their physical and mental health.
Provide encouragement to seek help and treatment and to remain on it. Understand that mental health problems can be debilitating and that recovery can take time and is likely to involve both good and bad periods.
Ask before making plans—accept that activities which you think may be pleasurable can seem overwhelming at first to a person who is struggling. Even though you may know that it will be good for them to start doing something, you may need to be patient as well as persistent.
Make sure you take care of your own physical and mental health. Make sure you talk to people about your experiences of providing support and how it is affecting you.
Be honest with yourself about the level of support you can provide. Seek help if you find you cannot cope. Do not help others at the expense of helping yourself. Sometimes saying “no” can be more helpful, in the longer term, to you and the person you are trying to help.
A good place to start would be your HIV clinic. Your HIV doctor should take your mental health as seriously as your physical health. Many of the larger HIV clinics have expert HIV mental health teams.
Referral hospitals can also provide help and support with mental health problems. Many now have some form of counselling available. They can also refer you on to specialist services if necessary.—Aidsmap.com