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  • Natasha Welford

Guidance on getting mental health support, right

Discussions around mental health have become very prominent in the media recently, and rightly so. But there seems to be more emphasis on giving a voice to those who may be suffering. What about giving everyone around them, who are feeling OK, the tools to be able to help and take the responsibility off those that don’t want the burden to reach out first?

A prominent theme for the COUCHies as we look to improve people’s lives through our 1m-Lives campaign, is mental health. It’s a very difficult subject to broach at the best of times, so in order to get it right, we invited Abi from Chasing the Stigma to provide training that would enable us to talk about this subject appropriately and give us the confidence to deal with a tough situation if it ever came our way.

My initial thoughts before the training, was that we would be guided on what services are available, or how to recognise the signs that someone may be struggling. With a very recent personal experience in mind, my main aim of this training was to be able to honestly answer the question: If someone came to me asking for help with mental health, would I know what to do?

The training took us straight to the point: it’s not our job to know what’s best for the person asking for help. We just need to know how to listen, and signpost to the right services who can help.

The importance of listening

The perception of the term ‘mental health’ has become negatively contorted – but when put in context with ‘physical health’, it really does make you think that EVERYONE has mental health which needs looking after. This put the training into context – what would you want someone to do if you were in that situation? If you were really struggling to reach out, would you want someone to dictate to you what’s best, telling you how to feel or what to do?

Abi advised that the best thing you can do is put yourself in their shoes. Be calming, reassuring and most of all, trustworthy. If a person who’s come to you for help has never shared how they feel, or are struggling for the words, it may take time. But taking this time to listen and offer your ear is always worth it – you may not have another chance.

Our main take away from the training? To be there to listen and support. You don’t need to have all the answers, you just need to be someone who people can turn to when they need to.

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